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May 08, 2012

Google Takes Self-Driving Cars to Nevada while California Waits

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

I feel a bit smug for predicting this would happen, although some people might argue that it was inevitable. After learning about how Nevada would be the first state to issue licenses for autonomous vehicles this year, I covered a related story for TMCnet. The story featured the Volkswagen Passat, which was test-driven 10,000 miles across Nevada in preparation for its debut as the first autonomous vehicle on the market. But this made me wonder about Google’s (News - Alert) fleet of self-driving cars that have been tested all over highways in California since 2010. It’s not like Google to wait to launch their technological innovations. Google’s fleet of vehicles faced obstacles over licensing in California, but rather than wait for the state’s DMV to finally come around, Google has opted to take their cars to Nevada, the only state that currently licenses robot-driving cars.

The New York Times covered the debate held in Silicon Valley over whether California or any state should license self-driving vehicles. Despite the pros mainly attributed to the technological feats, participants in the debate posed too many questions regarding legal liability issues. Sebastian Thrun, who heads Google’s fleet research team, argued the safety of his vehicles to the public by claiming that in the 200,000 miles of testing, there were no accidents. Still, the Californian government is dragging their feet because they have no rulebook over how to regulate driverless cars. Dr. Sven Beiker, the executive director of the Center for Automative Research at Stanford University has said, “Twenty years from now we might have completely autonomous vehicles… maybe on limited roads.”

But Brad Templeton, a software engineer involved in the Google project responds to this by stating, “It won’t truly be an autonomous vehicle…until you instruct it to drive to work and it heads to the beach instead.”

And as far as waiting 20 years? No way. Nevada is licensing now, and Google intends to have their Toyota Prius out there on the market and ready to cruise down the Las Vegas Strip alongside the Passat. And as California continues to wait, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona are all interested in bringing driverless technologies to their states as well.

Edited by Juliana Kenny
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