California introduces bill to legalize driverless cars

Mar 1, 2012
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Flying autos may still be something of a pipe dream, but letting you car handle your morning commute is coming closer and closer to reality. California legislators seem as eager to embrace this future as we are: a new bill has been introduced in the state legislature to formally legalize driverless cars and the testing of same on California roads, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The bill entered the state senate on the same day that the neighboring Nevada is beginning to allow companies to apply for a permit to test out self-driving cars on the open road.

The bill is sponsored by State Senator Alex Padilla, who is a trained mechanical engineer. One of the more tricky hurdles that innovators have to jump is the unsure legal situation - in the United States, anything that isn't explicitly illegal is usually fair game, and firms like California's own Google have been using this fact to test self-driving cars on public roads with humans riding along as fleshy backups. Google's autonomous Prius concepts, equipped with computer-controlled gas, brakes and steering mechanisms aided by GPS, cameras and dozens of other sensor systems, have already logged over 200,000 miles on public roads.

Legislation wouldn't just be a way of granting state approval for the programs: it's also a way for the DMV to enforce its own set of safety standards. The bill models California's currently theoretical system after Nevada's, issuing testing licences after applicants' machines have spent 10,000 miles on private tracks and requiring two operators in a testing vehicle. Similar proposals are currently in effect in Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

[via Cnet]


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