And so it begins…
This past Monday, the state of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued Google its first license for the hands-free car; you know, the one that drives itself. This was a result of the 2011 legislation in the state that established regulations to allow test-driving of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles utilize intelligent driving software, proximity sensors and GPS data to determine how to traverse from one point to another one. Soon, these vehicles will be tested around Nevada, but with a catch: two people must be in the vehicle — one in the driver’s seat and the other in the passenger seat.
In order to continue, any company planning to test driverless vehicles will need to present a detailed test plan, including what type of roads the cars would travel on, the number of vehicles they want to test (including the budget, that would be in the millions; that’s MILLIONS). So far, these hurdles have been cleared, allowing testing to go forward, as Google has at least eight vehicles available, including an Lexus RX450h, Audi TT and six Toyota Priuses (or Priusi? Priusen?). You can find them by checking the license plates; the driverless cars have a red background with an infinity symbol on the plate’s left side.
Nevada DMV spokesperson Tom Jacobs, noting that the current system is “still a work in progress,” as the autonomous vehicles act on the accelerator , brakes and steering to drive the vehicle. For those of us that still aren’t quite reading to hand over control to the machines (read Skynet), the vehicles revert to manual control just by tapping the brake or turning the wheel (similar to disabling cruise control in modern cars). Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, who was chauffeured in one last July, called his 24 mile trip from Carson City to Washoe Valley and back “amazing.”
Man, first the road-legal flying cars, and now this? All of this may get to a point where we can tell George Jetson to “stick it.” Below is a video of a blind man, Steve Mahan, who Google for a drive on a programmed route to experience being behind the wheel of the driverless car.