Nevada today approved a law making it the first state in the nation to establish legislation authorizing the use of autonomous, or driver-less, vehicles on its roadways. This is a win for Google since they’re one of the leaders in autonomous technology, perhaps well-known for their driver-less cars that have at least been touring the region. Most experts, according to MSNBC, believe that technology to have mass production of driver-less cars is still years away, but Nevada decided to sign legislation right away.
Spurred on by Google, according to MSNBC, Nevada was encouraged to act because the search engine giant wanted to make sure that the driver-less program it had going on wasn’t doing anything illegal or not adhering to regulations. It first started its research & development program two years ago and MSNBC reports that there hasn’t been a single collision recorded, although in doing a search on (where else?) Google, I discovered that, last year, an accident that resulted in a five-car crash was started by Google’s car, but they claim it was human error–a driver was behind the wheel, not artificial intelligence.
While legislation is now in place for driver-less vehicles, don’t expect the state to allow you to do whatever you want when you’re in the car, but not behind the wheel (or at least driving it). The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles is saying that there’s no exemption for drinking and driving: “the bartender or bouncer won’t be able to toss you in the back seat, hit the Start button and send you speeding home,” according to Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow. MSNBC also reports that all operators will be able to text and use a handheld cellphone, but will need special licenses in order to be the driver in a driver-less car–a black box, similar to what’s on airplanes, will be included in all vehicles (a smart move).
Google will have to move fast in this area. General Motors is catching up to the search engine giant quickly with several tests being done in Southern California, while other participants are Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University and Chevrolet. BMW is also gearing up to be an active participant too.
Wonder why Nevada was the first one? Is it because there’s so much stretch of road out in the middle of nowhere that Google felt it was safer to test their vehicles out there without increased risk of traffic? It will be interesting to see how this progresses as this will definitely spur innovation of (hopefully) safer vehicles and other autonomous technology.