California Senate approves bill for self-driving cars

22 May 2012

Google self-driving car (a modified Toyota Prius) with its new licence plate in Nevada State. Image by Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

California has become the second US state to pass a bill to allow autonomous vehicles, such as Google’s self-driving cars, to be tested on its roads and highways.

The LA Times reports that the Senate Bill 1298, which was sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla, has established guidelines for ‘autonomous vehicles’ to be tested and operated on California’s highways and roads.

The move means the bill will now go to the assembly for consideration next month.

“Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California’s roads,” Padilla told The LA Times. “For me this is a matter of safety.”

In early May, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved Google’s licence application to test its self-driving cars on its public roads.

At the time, the Nevada DMV said it was creating the state’s first autonomous testing business licence and licence plates for a Toyota Prius that Google had modified into a self-driving car.

Google’s driverless technology includes radar sensors, artificial intelligence and GPS video cameras to allow the car to navigate through the streets as safely as possible. However, such self-driving cars must legally have someone at the wheel in case something goes wrong.

If the California Bill is passed and signed it may come into effect in January 2013.

The states of Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma are also reportedly contemplating such autonomous vehicle legislation.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic