The company has already developed vehicles using the technology and tested them extensively in California. The new laws would make Nevada the first state where such vehicles are formally allowed on public roads. (The company believes its California tests were legal as they allowed the human driver to override any errors.)
The Google system involves a combination of the cars using Google’s own maps and traffic data to figure out routes and drive within the prevailing speed limit, and a suite of sensors, cameras and radar devices to keep track of the position and movements of surrounding objects.
This isn’t the only such project in the works. A European research project tested in Sweden involves electronically controlled vehicles syncing with one another to form an automated convoy on major roads, with the front vehicle controlling movement and speed.
Google hasn’t said publicly why it has targeted Nevada for the first state to allow the cars. My guess is it’s a combination of the state being known for relatively relaxed attitudes to many issues, and there’s plenty of desert road where it may be easier to try scaling the number of driverless vehicles rather than in busy metropolitan areas.
As well as the bill to allow the vehicles, lobbyist David Goldwater is also working on a bill that would exempt the cars from rules banning texting by drivers. Both bills are expected to go to a vote next month.
(Picture via ted.com talk by Sebastian Thrun, who helped build the Google vehicle.)