Google has received permission to use its fully autonomous vehicles on the streets of California. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Thursday that allows the driverless cars to operate on state roads. California follows Nevada and Florida in legalizing the autonomous vehicles.
The Mountain View, California based company is perhaps the most recognizable tech firm to be working on driverless vehicles, and their efforts to date have astounded researchers as Google’s vehicle continue to operate flawlessly in real world situations.
In signing the autonomous vehicle bill into law, Governor Brown proclaimed:
“Today, we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality. This is the place where new ideas, risk, and imagination come together to really build the future,” he said.
While California is touting its “innovation first” approach, Google actually received a license to start driving the autonomous vehicles in Nevada months ago. Similar legislation is also on the table in Hawaii and Oklahoma.
Under the new California law, the Department of Motor Vehicles must draft specific regulations for the vehicles by 2015. While the vehicles can drive themselves, those regulations will require a licensed driver to stay behind the wheel as as sort of failsafe mechanism.
Autonomous vehicle supporters, in the meantime, continue to tout the automobile’s ability to increase highway capacity by two to three times through better controlled driving. Supporters believe the vehicles could ultimately save millions of people from traffic related deaths. That sentiment was echoed in a 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety study that predicted 81 percent of vehicle crashes would be avoided with self-driving vehicles.
Google’s driverless vehicles have been in two accidents to date, and neither of those accidents were blamed on Google’s autonomous driving technology. In fact, it was when human drivers took over driving responsibilities from Google systems and drove manually that they were involved in accidents.
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