Perhaps the flying car is next. Nevada recently passed regulations for self driving cars that were approved by insurance companies, police, car companies, and others, making Google’s computer driven robot car one lane closer to your rush hour and that sizzling best seller you’d rather be reading than the bumper in front of you.
Nevada’s DMV is currently developing licensing procedures for car manufacturers to test self-driving cars in Nevada, Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada’s DMV, told Physorg. The state’s Governor Brian Sandoval even tried out one of Google’s self-driving Toyota Prius in July.
Back in late 2010, Google dropped the bombshell that its self-driving robot cars had clocked in over 140,000 miles of driving in California with only occasional human control, and seven cars drove over 1,000 miles with no human assistance. The cars have driven from Google’s Mountain View campus to its Santa Monica office, and right on down to Hollywood Boulevard to trade parking spaces with the stars. The cars even managed to drive San Francisco’s Lombard Street, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation that’s also a continual tourist traffic jam.
Only one accident was reported during the testing, and a human behind the wheel of another car was entirely at fault.
The cars use radar, sensors and computers to navigate and avoid obstructions, with a human driver always ready to take over the wheel if the self-driving computer happened to recently stream “The Terminator” on Netflix. Google received a patent for its self-driving cars in December.
The technology was developed by a team of engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a line of robot vehicle races organized by the US government.
The cars are designed to prevent traffic accidents. Google argues that computer driven cars can drastically reduce the more than 1.2 million lives lost every year in highway accidents by as much as half.
“This technology has been a passion of mine for years because it will help save lives, help lots of people who have difficulty driving, and reduce congestion on our roads,” Google’s Larry Page blogged about the project. “…Using technology to improve safety on our roads will make the world a better place.”
As robots make the roadways safer, cars can also weigh less, reducing fuel consumption.
“While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science,” Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, explained on Google’s blog. “And that future is very exciting.”
Google had suggested automated taxis or self-driving delivery services as possible initial uses.
Self-driving cars being tested will have red plates, Physorg reported. The cars will likely have green plates when the service is available to the general public.
Don’t expect designated driving robots tomorrow, however. Even the most optimistic predictions place the technology’s at least eight years away from hitting the mainstream. A lot more needs to be tested, including the legal system. If a robot does get in a crash, for instance, who’s responsible, the driver optimizing technology or the company that programmed the faulty R2D2?