Self-Driving Cars Are Now Legal In California

California Governor Jerry Brown today signed into effect SB1298, effectively paving the way for driverless cars in California. For a state that relies more heavily on cars than any other, this is hugely significant when it comes to traffic and road congestion.

"Today we're looking at science-fiction becoming tomorrow's reality," said the governor. And tomorrow isn't that far off. According to Google's Sergei Brin, "You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this." More and more Google employees will be beta-testing it starting this year, and when you hear the potential advantages, you'll start to wish you worked there.

Brin envisions the driverless-cars serving people who couldn't drive under normal circumstances. "There are many, many people who are underserved by our transportation today," he said. "The blind... some people are too young, some people are too old, sometimes we're too intoxicated." But beyond opening the doors to people who might otherwise be cut off from transportation, it's something the masses may quickly get spoiled by.

Another area where Brin hopes the driverless-car will improve society is traffic:

"Why does the congestion happen to begin with? The fact is that on a normally operating highway, cars take up a very small fraction of the space. Mostly it's just air between you the the car in front of you, to the sides of you, and so forth. Self-driving cars can actually 'chain together' and use the highways more efficiently, potentially eradicating congestion."

It's hard not to have a visceral, gut-clinching reaction when you picture a string of cars speeding down the highway like cyclists drafting each other in a race. But then driverless cars aren't designed to speed, and according to Brin, "Driverless cars don't run red lights." That's a bold statement, but there would be a lot fewer auto fatalities if it's true. Google's engineering team is busy trying to account for every anomaly.

The cars could make us more productive, allowing us to get some work done while we're stuck in traffic. They could also potentially solve a lot of our parking problems. A driverless car could theoretically drop you off and then go find a efficient place to park itself. Or, if you didn't need have to own your car, it could drop you off, then be used by someone else, eliminating the need for parking all together.

By Brin's admission, the list of technical details yet to be solved make for a very long list, but the driverless cars have already traveled tens of thousands of miles without incident. With the passage of SB1298 today, the door is now open to increasing the amount of road-testing by a significant margin, which will make these cars available to everyone much sooner. We can't wait for that day. [Google]


Comments

    I would easily allow a computer to take over the driving of a vehicle. I have faith in technology and the accuracy of a computer far outweighs any human. Not many others think the same though. I think in a world where computers drive all cars, there would be no accidents and no congestion. Too many retards behind the wheel. Need to weed them out, do it with technology. Stops the road rage too.

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      There is no way that a computing system is reliable enough to do this. We all know when it is down it is all down so when the glitch occurs how many optimistic fools are going to be stranded, maybe they can take over manually-if they haven't forgotten how to do it! It's not just the physical part of the thing but look how many people today can't even live without a calculator, what will happen when the brain is no longer used?

    agreed, but will a computer react to say a plastic bag blowing across the road and suddenly cause another accident or brake and have someone rear end my car? can they be used outside the city...dirt roads, roads that are not exactly where they are supposed to be such as on google maps...god sometimes their maps show me driving through paddocks (when obviuosly on a road) when in country areas....also high winds on highways etc where we naturally compensate our steering? there could be lots of flaws as well. but i'm all for it if it can work....definitely!

      Self-driving cars will only get smarter from here on out. We, however are still stuck with the shit-for-brains goon drivers as well as the well-meaning but also risky very young or very old human drivers.

    Piece of cake....
    The technology is definitely there..

    It would be a lot simpler if ALL of the cars were computer controlled, and cooperatively communicating with each other... It makes things a lot easier when you know what all of the vehicles on the road intend to do in the next x seconds...

    Good to see that there is at least one positive thinking jurisdiction in the world when it comes to these things..
    Next, get the drivers out of trains buses and planes....

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