It seems that Google is continuing to impress lawmakers with its autonomous vehicle technology. The California Senate has unanimously passed (37-0) a bill regulating autonomous vehicles on the state's roads. The bill will now head to the California State Assembly, where it is expected to pass quickly. This news comes the same month that Nevada has issued its first-ever autonomous vehicle license for one of Google's self-driving cars.
The bill, Senate Bill 1298, allows manufacturers of autonomous vehicles to operate them on California roads as long as the vehicles meet all of the safety standard and performance requirements set out by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Those requirements and standards are not yet set, as the legislation also directs the CHP to develop the regulations. Presumably, the requirements will be similar to the ones Nevada has adopted: a documented safety plan, a plan for training operators, a complete description of the autonomous vehicle technology, a large cash deposit, and, of course, plenty of up-front fees.
The bill, written by California State Senator Alex Padilla, seems almost apologetic. It recognizes that self-driving car technology is quickly being developed, and that the cars are potentially much safer than human drivers. From the bill:
The State of California, which presently does not prohibit or specifically regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles, desires to encourage the current and future development, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state. The state seeks to avoid interrupting these activities while at the same time creating appropriate rules intended to ensure that the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state are conducted in a safe manner.
An article by Wired shows Padilla as being very impressed with Google's autonomous car technology, much the same way Nevada Govenor Brian Sandoval was last year. It's a bit frustrating to see that every person to experience Google's self-driving cars is impressed with how much safer they are than human drivers, yet the technology still has to drive through miles of red tape because it is cutting-edge technology. Still, driverless cars should be a commercial reality before the end of the decade, and they are sure to be worth the wait.