California governor Jerry Brown signed a law that permits self-driving cars on the state's public roads.
The signing ceremony took place at Google’s Mountain View headquarters with the governor sitting on the passenger side of an autonomous Toyota Prius. Google co-founder Sergey Brin and State Senator Alex Padilla were in the back seats and company engineer Chris Urmson behind the wheel as the Prius drove itself.
“We’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality”, said Brown before signing the bill.
Google has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars, which rely on video cameras, radar sensors, lasers and a database of information collected by manually driven cars, to navigate themselves. The State of Nevada has also approved driverless cars and has asked the DoT to draw up the guidelines.
The new law will go into effect in 2013 and defines the safety and performance regulations for testing self-driving cars. It also stipulates that an “operator” (aka as driver) must be in the driver’s seat to take control whenever necessary.
Last year, the projects leader, Sebastian Thrun, had pointed out that driverless cars would not only reduce congestion, but also save thousands of human lives. Today, Birn said that the self-driving car also will improve the quality of life form many people who, in some cases, are not fit to drive a vehicle themselves (see here).
He also stressed that, despite investing in this technology, Google does not intend to branch out to auto manufacturing.
“We have had great conversations with a variety of automakers”, said Brin who added, “Anything we do is going to be in partnership with the industry”.
Automakers like VW and BMW have already demonstrated their own self-driving prototypes, while many other companies are readying their own versions.
By Andrew TsaousisStory References: Automotive News