Google to Nevada: Let Our Cars Drive Themselves

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Google’s self-driving cars may soon hit the road in Nevada if a pair of bills get through the state legislature.

The bills would make Nevada the first state to legalize self-driving cars on public roads, the New York Times reports. One bill would amend electric vehicle laws to allow registration and licensing of autonomous automobiles. The other is an exemption to the state’s ban on texting while driving, allowing cell phone use from the driver’s seat while the car drives itself.

Google, which revealed last year that it’s been testing self-driving cars, is quietly lobbying for the bills, which are likely to get a vote before the legislative session ends in June. Last month, Google lobbyist David Goldwater argued to Nevada lawmakers that self-driving cars are safer and more fuel-efficient, while promoting economic development. It’s not clear why the search giant has targeted Nevada, but my guess is that Google likes the state’s vast stretches of open road and its proximity to California, where Google is based.

Although self-driving cars aren’t yet street legal in the United States, Google already took the liberty of testing its six-car fleet in California, with a backup driver behind the wheel and another Google employee monitoring the system in the passenger seat. The cars use roof-mounted video cameras, radar and a laser range finder to detect surrounding traffic, and they’veĀ coveredĀ 140,000 miles without incident, except for one case where Google’s car got bumped from behind. Google claims that self-driving cars could cut automobile accidents in half.

Even if Nevada lawmakers approve of both bills, don’t expect to safely fall asleep at the wheel anytime soon. A Google spokesman told the Times that the project is still very much in its testing phases.