Nevada Legislation Paves Way for Google’s Self-Driving Robo Cars

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If you plan on driving through Nevada sometime in the next few years, be sure to keep your eye out for other cars missing a key component: their drivers.

Google has been pushing legislation to allow for self-driving cars in the state since earlier this year, and has admitted to testing robotic-driven vehicles on California highways with over 140,000 miles driven.

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As of last week, Nevada passed a bill that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to set out guidelines for “autonomous vehicles” that use artificial intelligence to navigate roadways.

The internet search giant has been testing driver-less cars since 2000, while more recently other auto manufacturers like Volkswagen have also been testing the waters. The law won’t take effect until March 1, 2012, and though it won’t actually sanction unmanned cars on the road, it sets the wheels in motion with DMV guidelines.

According to PC Mag, Nevada currently defines an “autonomous vehicle” as “a motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.”

Nevada provides a fertile testing ground for such an experiment, with long expanses of desert roadway interspersed with densely filled cities. In cooperation with Toyota, Google equips each specially-outfitted Prius with laser range finders and video cameras in order to avoid traffic.

The bill was proposed with another piece of legislation—which hasn’t yet been passed—that would permit a person behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle to send text messages without penalty.

“Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use,” project leader Sebastian Thrun told the Daily Mail.

There was, however, one hiccup during Google’s testing phases: One of the unmanned vehicles was rear-ended by a human driver.

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