California State Senator to Introduce Autonomous-Vehicle Legislation
Google’s Golden State home gets closer making the company’s self-driving cars legal.
California is usually on the cutting-edge when it comes to everything from fashion (despite questionable sartorial contributions such as Ugg boots and flip-flops) to car culture. But the Golden State is following the lead of its neighbor Nevada in deciding whether to make self-driving cars legal on its roads, even though California-based Google has been leading the autonomous-vehicle charge.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat, rolled into the capital, Sacramento, yesterday in a Google-modified Toyota Prius to announced plans to introduce a bill that will make self-driving vehicles legal on California roads and start creating safety rules. Padilla had Google officials in tow -- they probably wouldn’t just let him simply borrow the vehicle from their pool -- and, as in Nevada, the company lobbied for the bill.
Padilla is promoting the bill and Google’s self-driving technology as a way to decrease traffic accidents, saying that up to 99 percent are caused by human error. Google’s robo-cars use cameras, sensors and sophisticated software to steer clear of collisions -- and are never on the phone, applying makeup or angry at a spouse. “If we can utilize state-of-the-art technology to make cars and therefore our roads safer, I think we have an obligation to pursue that,” Padilla said.
The proposal in the California legislature also follows the lead of the Nevada law by allowing companies to test self-driving vehicles on public roads only after logging 10,000 miles on private tracks or other roads under certain conditions. Coincidentally, March 1 marked the first day that Nevada began allowing companies to apply for a permit to test autonomous vehicles openly on state roads. Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma are also considering legislation that would allow self-driving cars to hit the highway.
Legal observers have noted that autonomous cars were never technically illegal in California. That’s why Google was able to extensively test its fleet of self-driving Prii on the state’s roads, although human drivers were always at the helm ready to take the wheel.
“We began our roughly 200,000 miles of testing our self-driving technology in California and it’s where we’ve covered the most ground,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “It’s also our home state. We would like to see self-driving vehicles progress to the next stage here. We’re very fortunate to have found a supporter with a strong technical background in Sen. Padilla.”
And the time and money to pursue such a pet project – and friendly politicians.
[Source: San Francisco Chronicle]
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