California Senate votes to allow self-driving cars
Posted: 05/22/2012 05:59:02 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- California took a step toward becoming the
second state in the nation to allow self-driven cars on its roads on Monday, as
the state Senate unanimously agreed to allow autonomously driven vehicles such
as those pioneered by Google (GOOG).
Google's self-driving cars have already crossed the
Golden Gate Bridge and driven along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway,
according to the company, which has taken California lawmakers on test drives.
"I had the pleasure of going out for a drive on the
autonomous vehicle," California state Senator Alan Lowenthal said before
the unopposed vote. "I have to say that there are some still issues with
it, but it's a better driver than I am."
The California bill, which passed in a 37-0 vote, will
now go to the state Assembly for consideration before heading to the desk of
Governor Jerry Brown. If passed and signed, it would go into effect in January
Google's self-driven cars rely on video cameras, radar
sensors, lasers, and a database of information collected from manually driven
cars to help navigate, according to the company, which pioneered the
experimental technology in 2010.
"This technology is coming," Senator Alex
Padilla, the bill's sponsor, said on the Senate floor. "We've got to
embrace the technology and embrace the benefit that comes with it, but do
so in a way that abides by the safety requirements and regulations of our
Padilla, Lowenthal and other state Senators test-rode
autonomous vehicles before voting on the legislation.
"When it's you in that drivers seat, and you engage
the autonomous technology, take your hands off the wheel and foot off the
pedal, it's not until then that you appreciate how sophisticated the technology
is," Padilla said after the vote, adding that the unanimous bipartisan
support is a good indication of smooth sailing through the Assembly.
The Nevada legislature was the first to authorize
self-driving cars last year. The measure went into effect in March and in May,
the state's Department of Motor Vehicles issued an autonomous vehicle license
for a Toyota Prius that Google had modified.
Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma are also considering
autonomous vehicles legislation. Other automakers are working on similar
self-driven car technology.
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