10.10.2012 Google driverless car legal in California
California has become the third U.S. State to allow the use of Google's prototype driverless car, paving the way for a possible future of self driving vehicles.
The State's Governor, Jerry Brown, has recently signed a Senate Bill (SB1298), which essentially legalises the use of 'autonomous vehicles' in California, and requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish and enforce safety regulations for their manufacture.
"Today, we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality," Brown said. "This self-driving car is another step forward in this long march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world."
While the new law will allow testing of self driving vehicles on public roads, drivers must be seated at the wheel and able to take control if required. The Bill also requires the DMV to adopt regulations covering driverless vehicles "as soon as practicable," but by January 2015 at the latest.
Promoters of the new technology, which include Senator Alex Padilla, who introduced the bill, and Google, claim that autonomous vehicles could vastly improve public safety – and is supported by the fact that, according to a recent Department of Transportation study, driver error was to blame for around 80% of U.S. vehicle accidents.
Other potential benefits include increasing mobility options for people with disabilities, allowing ‘drivers’ to reclaim valuable time lost when sitting in traffic, and the reduction of congestion and vehicle emissions.
However, critics of the Bill include Consumer Watchdog, a not-for-profit campaign group, which has raised concerns associated by the new technology. "Substantial safety and liability questions remain," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "On the privacy issue, the law gives the user no control over what data will be gathered and how the information will be used."
"What this demonstrates more than anything else is Google's ability to dazzle and get is way," said Simpson. "The governor and many legislators have been taken for a ride by Google – and I don't just mean in the Internet giant's driverless test vehicles."
Whatever the eventual success of Google’s prototype technology, and despite the numerous non-technical barriers that remain, there seems little doubt that the driverless vehicle is on its way, and that the digital revolution has yet more potential to reduce the environmental impact of the car.
PR Newswire, San Francisco Chronicle
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