Google autonomous Toyota Prius test vehicle
We recently told you that Google was asking Nevada legislators to allow testing of the company's autonomous cars. Now, less than two months later, we're not surprised to learn that Google's lobbying efforts have paid off.
As we mentioned before, Google was pressing Nevada's elected officials to do two fairly specific things: (1) create laws that permit driverless cars, and (2) create an exception in Nevada's distracted-driving laws to allow folks to send text messages from the driver's seats of autonomous vehicles.
Item #1 was the biggest of the two goals, and it's now been accomplished -- though the specifics of how the legislation will play out on Nevada's roads haven't been settled. The new law simply allows the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to devise rules for autonomous car testing. It has until March of 2012 to do so.
A portion of the DMV's regulations will likely establish specific areas for vehicle testing. Google's Autonomous Car Project has already logged over 140,000 miles of roadway trials in California, so limiting the company's vehicles to Nevada's desert highways seems unlikely. We're guessing that Google is hoping to run the cars on or near the Vegas strip, as "driverless taxis".
Interestingly, the new law requires "drivers" of autonomous cars to have a valid driver's license, although the law also says that "drivers" don't need to be attentive while behind the wheel. That could make for some curious lawsuits and insurance claims, should any Google vehicles wind up in fender-benders.
Google's request to allow text messages from "drivers" of autonomous vehicles hasn't gotten the green light just yet, but there's pending legislation to fix it. We'd be fairly surprised if this weren't resolved in Google's favor -- after all, what cash-strapped state in America wants to look deep-pocketed Google in the eye and say "no"? We'll keep you posted.
If you're the curious sort who enjoys reading legislation on a Monday morning, you can click here to check out the entire PDF allowing autonomous vehicles on Nevada roads.