Stanford/Audi TTS autonomous Pikes Peak car, aka 'Shelley'Enlarge Photo
As of now, the only state where self-driving cars are legal on public roads is Nevada, thanks to its vast expanses of open space and lightly traveled byways. California, recognizing that autonomous cars are an inevitable progression of technology, is moving to establish its own rules for driverless vehicles.
A bill proposed by California Senator Alex Padilla would set guidelines for the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles within the state. As California is home to Google
and Caltech, all of which have active autonomous vehicle programs, the state is positioned to be a leader in driverless car development. It stands to reason that self-driving cars will be allowed on California's roads, probably in the near future.
If passed, Padilla’s bill would require the California Highway Patrol to establish standards and performance requirements for autonomous vehicles operated on the state’s roads. While such vehicles are legal in Nevada
, they must still have a human operator behind the wheel, just in case something goes wrong.
As Padilla is quick to point out, though, autonomous cars may prove to be safer than human-operated vehicles. The Detroit News
quotes the senator as saying, “The vast majority of accidents are due to human error. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety on our roads and highways.”