The governor of California, Jerry Brown, tested out the new self-driving car by riding in a self-driving Toyota Prius before signing legislation that will establish safety and performance regulations to operate the vehicles in California.
The legislation was introduced by Democratic Senator Alex Padilla. Governor Brown said:"Today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality – the self-driving car. Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish, but they'll get over it."
The autonomous auto technology is being developed by Google Inc., which has been lobbying California legislators to introduce regulations. The company provided Governor Brown with the free ride to check out the vehicle. The company has a dozen of the vehicles. The computer-controlled vehicles have already logged over 300,000 miles with no accidents as yet.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin said: "I think the self-driving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone." Brin claims that the autonomous cars would actually make roads much safer. After all, computers don't get drunk but they do crash! The autonomous cars would be a boon to people who cannot drive themselves, such as the disabled and the blind. Autonomous cars would also make excellent designated drivers.
Google has tested autonomous vehicles in Nevada as well as California. Nevada passed a law in 2011 authorizing the self-driving vehicles. In both states regulations will require that there must be a human behind the wheel as well able to take control at any time. Designated drivers will still be required!
Brin predicted that the self-driving vehicles will be available commercially within a decade. Google plans to partner with an auto manufacturing company to make the vehicles. There are still many problems to be ironed out, including liability issues in the case of accidents. Asked who would get the ticket when a driverless car runs a red light, Brin replied: "Self-driving cars do not run red lights." We shall see about that! Computer malfunctions are not all that rare.
The legislation that Brown signed will require the California Department of Motor Vehicles to introduce draft regulations by the beginning of 2015. Stanford University and Silicon Valley companies have a long history of research on the technology of autonomous cars. However car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW,. Ford, and Volvo have also been doing research into the area. I expect that the initial costs of these vehicles will probably put them beyond the reach of the average car buyer.