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Posted at 05:06 PM ET, 09/25/2012

A win for Google’s driverless car: Calif. governor signs a bill regulating autonomous vehicles


A Google self-driven car in Las Vegas on May 1, 2012. (Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles)

A California bill regulating safety and performance standards for driverless cars has been signed into law.

Gov. Jerry Brown put pen to paper at Google’s offices in Mountain View on Tuesday, clearing the way for the company’s autonomous vehicles, roughly a dozen of which are already on the road in California, the Associated Press reports.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, sporting his Google glasses, stood by as Brown signed the bill on the company’s sprawling campus. Also on hand was the bill’s author, state Sen. Alex Padilla.

“Today, we’re here to celebrate that we’re stepping on the accelerator when it comes to the Google car,” said Padilla during his opening remarks, going on to mention the potential for the driverless car to avoid accidents and reduce traffic.

“It really has the power to change people’s lives, that’s why I’m really excited about it,” said Brin during his remarks in the lead-up to the signing. “There are many, many people who are under-served by our transportation system today.” Brin went on to list a variety of groups, including the blind, people too young to drive and even those who get a little too deep in their cups — all of whom would be better enabled with a driverless car.

“I expect self-driving cars are going to be far safer than human-driven cars,” continued Brin. “It’s at a substantial cost that we embrace our transportation systems. And I believe self-driving cars can eradicate much of that cost.”

“I got used to it pretty d--- quickly,” said Brin of his experience.

He went on to describe a future where cars could be shared — where once a car dropped someone off it would immediately be used to transport someone else or park itself in a compact, efficient manner until it was called on.

“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” said Brown.

Asked how many years away Brin thought the driverless car was from making an impact, Brin said, “You can count on one hand the number of years before people can experience this.”

Ultimately, the law does not give the green light for Google to begin selling driverless cars. Instead, the law sets up rules and procedures for determining when the car is ready for consumers and what testing still needs to be done before the car is able to be used widely. And those tests, says Brin, are underway.

“It’s basically a very long list of edge cases,” said the Google co-founder. That list includes accounting for mechanical failure and other outside factors. “We’re getting through a long list of eventualities.”

“We want to use and create technology to dramatically improve the world,” answered Brin when asked whether Google wanted to manufacture the cars. “We currently don’t have plans to develop our own cars from scratch.”

Disclosure: The author’s brother works for Google, but not on the driverless car project.

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By  |  05:06 PM ET, 09/25/2012

Categories:  Business, Invention, Research, Technology

 
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