According to the Associated Press news wire, the state of Nevada has issued a provisional “driver’s” license to three self-driving Google vehicles. The licenses are provisional because it requires that at least two licensed drivers be in the vehicle while it’s moving at all times. CNET says this is huge step in automotive history while Fox News declares it one giant leap for the self-driving vehicles.
As most know by now, Google has been testing its self-driving cars for several years now; first along California’s ocean-side freeway, then in some of Nevada’s glitzier places, such as Las Vegas, Carson City and Reno. But those were all special cases and fell under some rather oblique driving regulations. With the new licensees, the cars can legally self-drive on any road in the state, paving the way perhaps, to a time when cars will do all the driving, and we humans will be either passengers, or absent as autonomous cars or trucks carry cargo without need of a human behind the wheel.
Thus far, Fox reports, the cars have proven themselves to be just as safe as cars driven by humans, and some might argue that they are actually safer. In all the millions of miles they’ve racked up so far, only one accident has occurred and that that one happened when a human was doing the driving and another vehicle was at fault.
CNET says the cars get honked at a lot because they follow the rules of the road to the letter, meaning they quite often travel slower than the traffic around them, or wait for other traffic to clear before moving at stop lights or signs. But, say Google reps, that’s just the Google cars being safer.
The cars are able to drive themselves because they are equipped with a host of technology that allows them to “see” the road around them, which a computer uses to adjust speed and direction. Thus far, every test has been conducted with a human being behind the wheel who can take over when it is deemed necessary, though it’s assumed at this point, that such minders often fall prey to inattention, though it doesn’t seem to matter as the cars have not been found to exhibit any faults.
To make sure that other drivers on the road understand that the cars are self-driving, the state has mandated that they have special red plates with a special infinity symbol on them. The state has also said that once the vehicles become licensed to non-engineers, they plates will be green, though there is no word yet on how soon others may be able to purchase such vehicles, or how they will be licensed.