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?