In March, a California State Senator introduced legislation that aimed to force the Department of the California Highway Patrol to adopt safety standards and requirements for autonomous vehicles, aka self-driving cars.
And now, that bill has been passed an sent to the Governor's office for his signature.
“The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error,” said Senator Alex Padilla when he first introduced the bill. "Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety on our roads and highways.”
Apparently, the rest of the legislature agrees. The language of the bill allows for self-driving cars to be "operated or tested" on public roads - if the safety standards are adopted, of course.
Here's an excerpt from the bill, SB 1298:
Existing law requires the Department of the California Highway Patrol to adopt rules and regulations that are designed to promote the safe operation of specific vehicles, including, among other things, schoolbuses and commercial motor vehicles.
This bill would require the department to adopt safety standards and performance requirements to ensure the safe operation and testing of "autonomous vehicles," as defined, on the public roads in this state. The bill would permit autonomous vehicles to be operated or tested on the public roads in this state pending the adoption of safety standards and performance requirements that would be adopted under this bill.
California isn't the only state with driverless car legislation on the docket. Back in June of 2011, Nevada passed a bill that allowed the State Department of Transportation to begin creating rules and regulation governing the operation of driverless cars. While that's not equivalent to full legalization, Nevada is already working on said regulations.
Earlier this month, we learned that Google's fleet of self-driving cars had logged over 300,000 miles, and the company planned to start sending out drivers solo. Google said that the next bit of testing would help their technology be able to handle tricky situations like snow-covered roadways and pop-up construction signals.
Although Google is currently to first name associated with driverless technology, they certainly aren't the only ones interested. Stanford University has been testing "Shelley," their driverless Audi TTS that can zip around an advanced course at up to 120 mph.
It'll be interesting to see how many other states jump into the fray and start passing laws to regulate autonomous vehicles. As of now, states like Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, and Oklahoma are at least considering actions on the technology. In Florida's case, they may run into a little bit of opposition.[via Ars Technica]