Google self-driving cars to take to Nevada’s roads

8 May 2012

Google self-driving car with its new licence plate in Nevada State. Image credit: Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

If you happen to be around Carson City or Las Vegas in Nevada state, you could soon see one of Google’s self-driving cars swish by you.

That’s because the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has just approved Google’s license application to test its self-driving cars on the Silver State’s public roads.

The Nevada DMV said it is creating the state’s first autonomous testing business license and license plates for Google.

This was after it carried out drive testing demonstrations along freeways, state highways and neighborhoods both in Carson City and the Las Vegas Strip.

Nevada DMV said that its Autonomous Review Committee met to review Google’s safety plans, employee training, system functions and accident reporting mechanisms.

The license plates that will grace the test vehicle will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol on the left side.

Car of the future?

Department director Bruce Breslow said that he felt that the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the “car of the future”.

He said that when vehicle manufactures market autonomous vehicles to the public, the infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate.

It was in December that Google was awarded a US patent to switch cars from human-controlled mode into driverless mode, so cars can self-drive. Google had filed for the patent back on 11 May 2011.

The driverless technology includes radar sensors, artificial intelligence and GPS video cameras to allow the car to navigate through the streets as safely as possible.

At the time, the abstract in the patent application stated: “Disclosed are methods and devices for transitioning a mixed-mode autonomous vehicle from a human driven mode to an autonomously driven mode. Transitioning may include stopping a vehicle on a predefined landing strip and detecting a reference indicator. Based on the reference indicator, the vehicle may be able to know its exact position. Additionally, the vehicle may use the reference indictor to obtain an autonomous vehicle instruction via a URL. After the vehicle knows its precise location and has an autonomous vehicle instruction, it can operate in autonomous mode.”

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman; Google; Larry Page, CEO, and Sergey Brin, co-founder, in the Google self-driving hybrid car

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman; Google; Larry Page, CEO, and Sergey Brin, co-founder, in the Google self-driving hybrid car

And in March, Steve Mahon, a man who has lost 95pc of his vision, tested out one of the self-driving cars. A video was posted on YouTube depicting Google staff members pick up Mahan from his home in one of these cars. Mahan sits behind the wheel during the trip while the car drives for him.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic