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Google’s driverless car now licensed

Nevada DMV hands license to Google’s autonomous ‘robot’ car in US first

9 May 2012

GOOGLE’S driverless car will soon be appearing on US roads after the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles this week granted its first autonomous vehicle license.

The department gave the web giant’s Toyota Prius-based prototype its tick of approval after conducting a series of tests in Carson City and along the Las Vegas strip, having reviewed Google’s safety plans and the car’s accident reporting mechanisms.

Nevada DMV director Bruce Breslow said the organisation had created special red number plates affixed with an ‘infinity’ symbol for the test vehicle, but that eventual production autonomous cars would get special green plates instead.

The new laws put Nevada at the forefront of autonomous car development. Last year it became the first US state to authorise self-driven cars for its public roads, with the law going into effect on March 1 this year.

Google was the first company to file an application with the department to test its driverless car, but the Nevada DMV has said that several car-makers have inquired about testing and developing the technology in the state.

Legislation to regulate driverless vehicles is being considered in other US states, with California state senator Alex Padilla introducing autonomous car legislation in March.

“The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error,” said Senator Padilla at the time.

“Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analysing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely.” Google uses video cameras, radar sensors, lasers and a database of information collected from manually driven cars to navigate its self-driven Prius, which was developed by Stanford professor, and Google vice-president, Sebastian Thrun.

During testing on its robotic Prius, Google put legally blind California man Steve Mahan behind the wheel. The attached video shows Mr Mahan going into a drive-through restaurant, among other things.

Car-makers such as BMW and Volvo are currently developing their own autonomous driving programs, with the German car-maker conducting high-speed tests on a 5 Series-based mule and the Swedish company working on convoy or ‘road train’ technology whereby cars ‘lock on’ to a lead vehicle and obediently follow.

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