Google seeking Nevada’s approval to test driverless vehicles on its roads

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 17, 2011

Google is seeking the approval of the state of Nevada for it to test its driverless vehicles in its roads. The search-engine giant has been quietly testing these cars for years. However, it has to persuade the legislature in Nevada to allow it to test the vehicles in the state.

David Goldwater, lobbyist for Google, informed the state assembly last April that "autonomous" vehicles are more fuel-efficient and safer than those driven by a human being. The lawmakers are to vote on the issue before the session ends in June. According to the proponents, the robot drivers will never get intoxicated, distracted or sleepy.

Moreover, these vehicles react faster than human drivers as they have sensors and do not have blind spots. The driverless vehicle has a rotating roof-mounted laser range-finder that scans at least 200 feet in every direction to generate a 3-D map. The six driverless Toyota Priuses and an Audi TT in Google’s fleet have video cameras and radar that watch for stop lights and obstacles as well as locate the vehicle’s position on the map.

According to the search-engine giant, it has placed autonomous vehicles through 1,000 miles of testing in California, and another 140,000 miles with occasional human involvement. During the tests, real drivers can override the driverless vehicles. The only accident during the secret drive test occurred when a human-driven vehicle plowed into the rear end of a test car that was stopped at a red light.

Google has not mentioned the commercial plans for the driverless cars or the reason why it chose Nevada to obtain testing rights.

Legal scholar Ryan Calo at Stanford Law School informed New York Times that in some respects, this is a great model and a great template. He added that it recognizes a need to make a process in order to test the vehicles and set aside an area in Nevada where the test program can be done.

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