Motoring, Technology|

Google Pushes for Driverless Cars to be Legal in Nevada

Google's Driverless CarIf Google gets its way, yet again, driverless vehicles could be a reality on Nevada roads. The search engine giant is lobbying for legislation that will make it legal for its automated Toyota Prius and Audi TT vehicles to be operated in the state. With this technology, the hybrid cars use laser range finders and video cameras to identify traffic, as well as detailed maps so they can get from point A to point B. After telling the computer where to go, drivers won’t have to do anything but sit there while the car calculates the route and takes them where they want to go.

Google has hired David Goldwater to promote the proposed legislation. The first amendment proposed is to an electric-vehicle bill supporting licencing and testing for autonomous cars. The second amendment is to a bill that will permit texting while in a car. Goldwater told lawmakers in April that the self-driving cars are more fuel efficient and safer than when a human is driving. Before the Legislature’s session ends in June, the measures are due to be voted on.

Last year, Google was surrounded by controversy when it emerged that some of their staff were testing the self-driving cars on roads in California. The cars were driven over 140,000 miles throughout the state and nearly all of those miles were on auto-pilot. During the testing, the Prius vehicles journeyed the Pacific Coast Highway from Mountain View to Santa Monica, the Golden Gate Bridge and down Lombard Street in San Francisco, which is one of the curviest and steepest roads in the world. The company says that 7 of their adapted vehicles have driven 1,000 miles at a time without a human controlling the wheel.

Researchers say that the artificial intelligence, which includes a funnel-like cylinder on the roof acting as the car’s eye, could eventually cut the 1.2 million deaths on roads around the world every year in half. The vehicles stick to the speed limit, as the maximum for every road is in the database the technology uses. So far there have been nearly no accidents – with the only hitch being when a human-driven vehicle hit one of their self-driving cars in the rear.

In March, head researcher Sebastian Thrun says they are aiming to prevent traffic accidents, give people more free time and cut carbon emissions by fundamentally changing how a car is used. The automated vehicles use video cameras, laser range finders and radar sensors to see other traffic, while detailed maps collected by manually driven vehicles are used to navigate the road. Safety has been their first priority with this project – they have trained safety drivers behind every wheel in case the car needs to be taken over, which can be down as easily as turning off cruise control, as well as trained software operators in the passengers seat in case there are hiccups, he added.

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