Yesterday marked a significant milestone in the advancement of self-driving cars with Internet and technology giant Google being awarded the nation's first license for autonomous cars.
The license was issued by Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles and comes less than a year after the state first allowed Google to start testing a fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius hybrids on its roads.
The issuing of the license also comes just one week after Google announced it was seeking a partnership with a major automaker to accelerate the development of its autonomous car technology and eventually start mass production.
Google has been developing the technology for several years now, but the tipping point came when Nevada officials were offered a ride along across highways, in Carson City neighborhoods and along the Las Vegas strip, reports Reuters.
Currently, Nevada’s DMV is processing applications for the special license from a handful of other firms and eventually it plans to issue them to members of the public. Google has stated in the past that it’s not prepared to sell its technology until it’s proven to be safe and that an agreement can be made with insurance firms as to who is liable in the case of a crash.
The license still requires at least two people in the car during all times that its autonomous mode is in use--one person, presumably with a license, to sit behind the wheel in case human intervention is required and a second to monitor for objects not in the vehicle’s direct path of travel.
The technology itself relies on a system of video cameras, radar sensors and lasers mounted all around the car, as well as a database of mapping information. In the future, it’s likely cars will communicate with each other as well as with roadside objects to help them detect and navigate around objects.
Below is a video released by Google showing a man with very limited vision, Steve Mahan, using one of its autonomous cars.