Google pushes for driverless cars, California bill passes

by: Simon HillSeptember 25, 2012

Google Self-Driving Car

Google has been developing self-driving cars for a while now and the latest news is that the company has successfully lobbied for legislative support in California. A bill to allow computer-controlled cars on Californian highways passed 37-0 in the Senate and 74-2 in the Assembly and is now awaiting action by Governor Jerry Brown.

The bill was sponsored by state Senator Alex Padilla and it will allow companies to test out driverless cars on public roads. The DMV still has to draft rules and will apparently designate the person in the driver’s seat or the person who engages the technology as the “operator”, presumably for legal reasons.

We already reported on the self-driving car license Google won in Nevada. The search engine giant is pursuing the same result in various other states as well. It spent $8.95 million on lobbying over various issues in the first six months of 2012, including driverless cars. This is clearly a technology that Google is determined to drive forward.

The cars use a combination of video cameras, radar, and lasers to drive in traffic and Google says it has driven them over 300,000 miles while in self-driving mode without an accident so far. There are obviously major concerns about safety and the possibility of nasty accidents due to a failure in some part of the system. However, the vast majority of car accidents are currently caused by human error, and so it’s quite possible that driverless cars will make the roads safer.

Apparently many of the features required for driverless cars are already present in the latest releases; consider self-parking cars and autonomous braking to prevent accidents. Toyota, Ford, GM, BMW, and other car manufacturers are all working on the concept.

It remains to be seen how Google will fit in, but clearly its navigation and mapping technology is extremely good. It has already tested the technology using a modified Toyota Prius, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450h. Combine a self-driving car with an augmented reality windshield display and that boring commute could start to become fun. What do you think? Driverless cars – good or bad?

  • Christopher Buteau

    I have yet to see anything on the carbon footprint of driverless cars. Do they use more energy or less or what? The growth of electrics and hybrids is pushing the clean energy issue closer to electrical factories. What are the driverless cars? Just gas run beasts? Is there a separate generator (gas) for the computer hardware necessary?

    • Jeremy Brown

      I think you are missing the point. This article has nothing to do with the carbon foot print. And besides the curve for power saved in a vehicle to power a computer chip and its software vs not while the car is running is very shallow.

      • Not to mention that they will likely be more efficient than drivers and use less fuel. Also, I am sure that this technology will work in electric cars as well. I believe that Tesla is interested.

  • Stian French

    Apple: What? Google’s making a self-driving car? Let’s make one too and use OUR mapping service and then sue Google for stealing our idea!

  • Jani Andersson

    This is really a great idea. I do belive its better to let the computer think in trafic than humans. Human are slow, unrational and very unpredictive. Computers dont have feelings, they dont get frustrated, they are logic and have loads faster response time than humans.
    I just whish this could come alot faster all over the world.

  • MikeCiggy

    This could be VERY awesome.. imagine… getting up, getting ready, getting in your car, using Google Now it already knows where you need to go. All you need to do is say Go. Then get on your laptop and answer emails before you even arrive at work.

  • Driverless cars could be very interesting. I’m very curious to see where this goes. I hope that if they become available to the people to purchase that they are not severely over priced.

  • Piyush

    Google is trying to make future the “present” at a rapid pace.

  • JC

    Do you all imagine what would happen if this is hacked? can you imagine how many could die at the same time? Hackers could simply make all cars accelerate, make cars think there are valid roads where they aren’t.. etc..

  • Casual Reader

    What? No more old people almost catapulting themselves through my windshield because they thought the traffic speeding toward them was actually a poster in their garage??

  • Dan K.

    What no one has said is this technology will ultimately put cabbies, limo and bus drivers and truckers etc out of business.
    And slow computerized traffic (that can’t necessarily make decisions like a good driver) won’t be my cup of tea either.