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article imageNevada approves permits for self-driving cars on roadways

By Leigh Goessl     Feb 17, 2012 in Technology
Looking into the future, Nevada has become the first state to approve self-driving cars. This week Nevada lawmakers approved rules to allow driverless cars on state roads.
According to the Nevada State Department of Motor Vehicles' press release, the agency said Nevada is "first in the nation while paving the way for unique economic opportunity."
This passing of regulations comes in culmination of Nevada's DMV Dept., along with auto manufacturers, testing professionals, insurance companies, universities, law enforcement, and Google working together. The DMV statement said all have a "common vision" of saving lives.
"Nevada is the first state to embrace what is surely the future of automobiles," Department of Motor Vehicles Director Bruce Breslow said. "These regulations establish requirements companies must meet to test their vehicles on Nevada’s public roadways as well as requirements for residents to legally operate them in the future."
NPR referred to the new permits as being "not quite driver's licenses for robots — but it's close."
This is a big step for businesses, perhaps most notably, technology giant Google. Digital Journal reported last spring Google had been lobbying in Nevada to legalize driverless vehicles.
To date, tens of thousands of miles have been driven by driverless vehicles, and while there are no laws expressly outlawing robotic vehicles, there are no laws approving it either; NPR described it as a "legal limbo."
In Dec. 2011 Google had been granted a 'landing strip' patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its driverless car technology.
Other companies, such as BMW, Volkswagen and Audi are also looking to perfect self-driving vehicles.
"Our work doesn’t stop here," Breslow said in the DMV statement. "The department is currently developing licensing procedures for companies that want to test their self-driving vehicles in Nevada. Nevada is proud to be the first state to embrace this emergent technology and the department looks forward to sustaining partnerships as the technology evolves."
The driverless "test" cars in Nevada will be recognizable by a differentiated license plate which will be red in color. Once the autonomous cars are developed and deemed ready for general use by the public, the license plate will be green in color.
Reportedly several other states are working on regulations to approve driverless cars, but in Nevada developers do not have to wait much longer. Effective March 1 companies are legally allowed to apply to test self-driving cars on Nevada's roadways, and will be required to secure a bond of $1 million to $3 million (depending upon how many cars are being tested), along with insurance.
The new rules stipulate two people in the test car at all times, and have a 'black box' device to collect data. The 'driver' must possess a license and cannot drink alcohol while in the vehicle, but will be allowed to use text messaging.
Consumers will have to wait a few years more to 'operate' an autonomous car, reported PC World.
What do you think? Are you ready to entrust driving to an automatic vehicle or navigate on roads where robotic cars are driven?
More about self driving cars, Nevada, Cars, Google, autonomous cars
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