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Robot cars ready to roll on Nevada roadways

Robot cars ready to roll on Nevada roadways

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Nevada Legislative commission approved earlier this month regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles on Nevada roadways, and Google plans to be the first company to take advantage of the new law.

Not only will Google benefit from the new regulations, but the company partnered with the Department of Motor Vehicles in creating the regulations, along with automobile manufacturers, testing professionals, insurance companies, universities and law enforcement agencies.

The goal was to promote a "common vision of saving lives," according to Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles. He said self-driving vehicles are "surely the future of automobiles."

The new regulations, effective March 1, spell out requirements companies must meet to test autonomous vehicles on public roadways, as well as provide for residents to be able to legally operate such vehicles in the future.

Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval exits one of Google's self-driving cars at the Carson City DMV office after a test ride in July 2011.

A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on the future plans of the company, saying only that Nevada's move is a positive one.

"Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly increase driving safety," said Jay Nancarrow, a Google spokesperson. "We applaud Nevada for building a thoughtful framework to enable safe, ongoing testing of the technology and to anticipate the needs and best interests of Nevada citizens who may own vehicles with self-driving capabilities one day."

But the regulations pave the way for Google, which received a patent for its driverless car system in late 2011, to bring autonomous vehicles for the public one step closer to reality.

Google's car still requires a driver to be present, and Nevada law requires two, for now. The cars will receive red license plates until they are proven to be safe for the public and with only one driver, at which point they will receive green plates.

The cars use sensors, radar and computers to pilot themselves, using Google Street View information and artificial intelligence software along with video cameras. Drivers can take control by moving the steering wheel or pressing the brake.

Google's vehicles have previously been tested in California, where there is no law specifically prohibiting the practice. Nevada is the first state to specifically allow it, though.

"Nevada is proud to be the first state to embrace this emergent technology," Breslow said in a release. "The department looks forward to sustaining partnerships as the technology evolves."

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Stephanie Grimes


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