Google looking to make driverless cars legal in Nevada

May 13, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an unexpected move, Google, the wily search giant with loads of ambition and enough spare cash to enable it to dabble in technologies that appear to have nothing to do with its core business, has hired lobbyist David Goldwater to represent the company in its push to legalize the running of autonomous vehicles on Nevada roads; this comes less than a year after announcing that it had been running live tests of its self-driving vehicles on California roads.

It was just last March that Google announced to the world that it had been racing autonomous cars around on rooftop parking lots and then just seven months later that it had been testing those cars on California roads; news that both made headlines and bolstered Google’s image as one of the more innovative companies operating today. Now comes news that Google is ready to tackle the sticky problem of allowing such cars to drive legally on roads, an issue no doubt that cropped up in the wake of its earlier announcements.

It’s not exactly clear why Google chose Nevada for its first push at legalizing what it’s been doing already; though there are theories, such as the fact that the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) just happens to be held in Las Vegas each year, or maybe it’s because Nevada has a history of allowing things that other states don’t; prostitution being the most infamous example, of course. Or it might be the fact that Nevada has a lot of roads that have very little traffic in very out-of-the-way places and thus could test its vehicles on public roads without much oversight.

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In any case, it’s clear that Google is very serious about continuing its research with autonomous vehicles and as a part of that is pushing for legislation to create for themselves a hassle free environment for doing so. As a result, there are now two bills currently being introduced to the legislature related to autonomous vehicles; one would be an amendment to another bill regarding electric vehicles that would create a means of licensing and testing autonomous vehicles on public roads; the other would provide an exemption for such “drivers” from the current law that disallows texting while behind the wheel.

Google claims that computer controlled vehicles are and will be much safer than conventional human driven vehicles because they are able to respond to road conditions more quickly and don’t fall prey to other human foibles, such as drinking and driving, falling asleep, or simply forgetting to pay attention. If ’s push to legalize such vehicles succeeds, we might just find out over the next few years, if they’re right.

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User comments : 33

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Doug_Huffman
2.6 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
Flexing its populist legal muscles. Want a quick legal denouement? Collide with a robot to determine who is responsible.
gunslingor1
2.6 / 5 (8) May 13, 2011
Lol, funny comment.

Really though, we've had the technology to make self driving cars for about a decade now, but only recently has it become cost effective and feasible on the large scale. I honesetly think we are ready for it. Imagine, the end to all traffic jams; that will be a result if it is implemented correctly. If we make it manditory that all cars have the capability to drive themselves, accidents will just about become a thing of the past; I think there are 43,000 accidents a year in which someone dies, it would probably fall to the hundreds or even into the tens with self driving cars.

Driving drunk could then be legalized, manually driving drunk would then be outlawed. Texting while driving wouldn't be an issue anymore, and I bet our economy would grow faster since people can work and do stuff while driving. Fuel efficiency could easily be increased simply by controlling the algorthims precisely.
AJW
3.8 / 5 (6) May 13, 2011
Dream World, USA. While automated control will provide reduced vehicle crashes, crashes are not all accidents. And let us not forget USA's trend to increase the number of people living below the poverty level. Do you think they will be buying a vehicle with automated control?
PaulieMac
5 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
While automated control will provide reduced vehicle crashes, crashes are not all accidents.


What do you mean? Some crashes are on purpose? Insurance fraud etc, you mean?

And let us not forget USA's trend to increase the number of people living below the poverty level. Do you think they will be buying a vehicle with automated control?


100 years ago, relatively few people could afford oen of those new fangled horseless carriages. Now, in the USA, car ownership must be something close to universal. Economics will drive the price down and lead to ubiquity, if the technology is useful and successful. In my opinion - and it's just an opinion - it will take a long, long time, but driverless will be the default, eventually. Surely teh safety, efficiency, and usefulness aspects of driverless are too compelling for it not to!

Over here in the UK, cars that park themselves are hitting the market. Not at the high-end either; in everyday varieties of compacts..
fuviss_co_uk
2 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
old news
Mikeal
5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
go Google!
fmfbrestel
4.5 / 5 (8) May 13, 2011
consumer vehicles are just the start. Imagine what kind of protests get kicked up when the 3.5 million truckers in the US lose their job to a computer.

It's going to happen eventually, and it will be a very visible display on how automation is decimating the working class. But dont worry, they can trade in their good paying trucking job for a minimum wage one at wallmart.
fmfbrestel
4.3 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
Im not trying to say we shouldn't use our tech advances, but as a society we need to figure out how to deal with these problems. Hopefully by doing something other then ignoring it and forcing them sit in some government entitlement program.
DontBeBlind
4 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
I like the thought of a 10hr road trip with this system. Go to sleep in your car for the night wake up at your destination. !
DaffyDuck
4.2 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
In my opinion - and it's just an opinion - it will take a long, long time, but driverless will be the default, eventually.


It won't take long. Because the benefit/cost ratio in terms of added safety is so high compared to seat belts (which are required equipment), the driverless system will quickly become mandatory to drive on public roads.
dallienponyboy
5 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
consumer vehicles are just the start. Imagine what kind of protests get kicked up when the 3.5 million truckers in the US lose their job to a computer.

It's going to happen eventually, and it will be a very visible display on how automation is decimating the working class. But dont worry, they can trade in their good paying trucking job for a minimum wage one at wallmart.


Wal-Mart does not pay minimum wage, they generally start cashiers and associates at $9.00/hour (the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour), with quarterly and yearly pay raises. Why don't the truck drivers learn how to dispatch the automated trucks?
Fig1024
2.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
Automated driving can never become mandatory in USA. People value their freedoms, I'm pretty sure such measure would never pass any popular vote. But as an option, it is good. You'd start seeing driverless cars picking up kids from school or taking them to soccer practice.
that_guy
3 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
I think most new technologies follow a kind of S curve. There's a long incubation period, then it starts hitting the public eye more and more, and then within a few short years it's suddenly ubiquitus.

radiotelephones have been around since the 50s. Then the first cellphone in the 70s. Then they were a luxury item in the 80s. It wasn't until the late 90s that they became very common, and then from 1999 to 2005, cellphone ownership went from 35 to 70 percent. Now it's leveling off at about 100-105 percent (some people have multiple phones.)

We are at the equivalent to early 80s cellphones with driverless cars. There are a number of vehicles with automated cruise control and self parking ability already available in the luxury market. In 5-10 years, more fully automated systems will hit the market. 10 more years and autodrive systems will start hitting the market on average cars. so I expect the car to drive me by the time I'm 50 (20 years)
mrlewish
2.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
All that we need is for rich people to clog up the roads by sending their multiple cars on errands.
scidog
not rated yet May 14, 2011
i would suggest North Dakota.
Avitar
not rated yet May 14, 2011
Somebody has to be first and the temp car for tourists in and around Las Vegas Casinos seems like the ideal starter application. The ability to put intelligence into cars is on Moore's law. In ten years it will be hard to find somebody who has not ridden in a driverless car.

The Truckers will be going to one man teams in trucks that do not stop while the driver sleeps or conducts business communications. And yes there will be convoys with only one lead truck manned.
ubavontuba
2.3 / 5 (3) May 14, 2011
I want one. I will name it "James." That way, I can climb in, lean back, absently wave my hand at the dash, and say, "Home, James." ...and away I'll go.

that_guy
5 / 5 (2) May 14, 2011
The Truckers will be going to one man teams in trucks that do not stop while the driver sleeps or conducts business communications. And yes there will be convoys with only one lead truck manned.

You know what is almost exactly the same as a convoy of trucks with only one driver?

A Train

Just having fun. I think your timelines are a bit optimistic though.
jselin
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
This idea makes my heart cry... I'm a driving enthusiast and piloting my commute is a real source of joy. To me, the automated highway will be a horrible experience. I fear that a large fraction of Americans will opt for this and many on the fence will be swayed by the traffic accident arguement. It will start with a dedicated lane, then two, then three, etc. For most aspects of the future I'm a wide eyed optimist but this one really gets me.
socean
1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
iselin, does your heart cry for the tens of thousands that are slaughtered and maimed each year by human drivers? Are you bothered by the urban sprawl, strip malls, and millions of miles of asphalt? Do you care about the quality of air and the environment? Do you realize the autonomous vehicle is a key factor in the progress of civilization?

I used to bomb down the road in my convertible too, but those days are over, except as amusement rides.
socean
1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
When President Obama equated getting millions of hybrid cars on the road to a "Sputnik moment", I was deeply disappointed.

Getting all human drivers off the roads, fully optimizing our transportation infrastructure to support robotic vehicles, making all vehicles shared or rented resources, completely eliminating the need for importing fossil fuels, drastically reducing transportation's carbon footprint, and reclaiming millions of acres of unneeded parking lots and roads, improving our GNP by optimizing transportation logistics, and creating whole new industries with lots of cool new jobs would be a lot Sputnickier.
jselin
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
life will never be 100% safe and I'm not interested in giving up freedoms in the pursuit of the unattainable. What's the end game... what world do you see at the end of that path? Technology should be used to increase our freedoms and the power of the individual to help provide for a happier and more fulfilling life. People don't dream of flying cars for efficiency gains it's about the freedom to move about in the vertical dimension (less constraints). I'd love to see more environmental responsibility but the fact is our appetites for energy will only grow, as will the population of power consumers. We need to focus on increasing capacity, reducing cost, and phasing out fossil fuels not drilling down every last half percent efficiency at great personal cost. Let's get fusion online, solar thermal, wind, upgrade the grid, and power cars from it all... not take away control.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011

You know what is almost exactly the same as a convoy of trucks with only one driver?

A Train


A train only goes where the tracks go and the timetables allow.

Which brings me to another point. Automation is all well and good when things operate like they should, but they won't do that always. Traffic jams aren't eliminated by automating traffic, because they essentially depend on how the people want to move, where and when. You can have the perfect system, and still jam it completely because you can't predict where everybody will want to be at any given time.

Just hope that the cars have some graceful fallback for errors, other than slam the brakes and sit there clueless when they can't compute a route to their destination.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
I mean, let's say there's a roadblock, a fallen tree, a collapsed bridge, or simply a gridlock on the way. The computer doesn't have the intelligence to deduce that it can't go through. It drives up to the blockage, stops, and goes "huh?". Now what? Turn around, go home? Give the wheel to the passenger?

No way, he doesn't know how to drive because he's been driving automated since he got his lisence.

Maybe it calls the internet for help and asks Google for an alternative route. Then Google directs it to a route that doesn't exist and it's the same problem all over again. It drives up to some point, goes "huh?" and stops.

Or in the worst case, goes up the wrong way on a one-way street and crashes.
jmlvu
5 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
Funny this might increase the number of cars on the road. Why take a school bus when the automated car can handle it. Ten year olds will get a car for their birthday. Air planes will be a bother when you can sit in the back of your RV and watch a football game.
dolby1983
not rated yet May 15, 2011
whoever told u people that workers at walmart makes more then the
minimum wage lied to u. i used to work there no one gets pay raises there they always told us the company is broke! i worked at a sam's club for 3 years. they also would fire most of the staff all the time to replace them with cheaper help. that the world of walmart!
SteveL
not rated yet May 17, 2011
What worries me is that there are "real" car companies out there who have been building cars for over 100 years that still can't consistently make them safe and reliable. I work in areas of equipment and system reliability and historically the more complex the equipment the more opportunities for problems.

These would be complex bits of hardware and would likely need gps, remote guidance and automated firmware/software updates. Just the thought of what some bored or PO'd hacker could do to thousands of people on some busy 6-lane highway during rush hour could be problmatic. The police would love it though - they'd be able to shut down any automated vehicle.
Byron27
5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2011
When you guys talk about jobs being lost and freedoms being taken away, you have to stop and think of all the people who would be gaining freedom and the ability to take jobs because of these driver-less cars. People with disabilities that prevent them from driving such as myself would finally be able to push a button and have a self-driving car show up and take us where ever we want to go. While the ability to drive is a luxury many of you have taken for granted, there's a large population who has to depend on public transit or the kindness of friends and family in situations where there is no infrastructure to independently get where you need to go.

The National Federation of the Blind is actually working on a car that would be drivable by the blind or visually impaired by utilizing the same kind of sensors that Google is using but instead of having a computer drive, the blind individual would interpret the conditions of the road by audio queues, vibration, and tactile feedback.
socean
not rated yet May 19, 2011
As it stands, we currently have sufficient "rights" for drunk drivers to kill 37,000 of us every year.

I think we can do better.

Automated transportation will be able to cope with random events in much less than 39 years. If fact, 39 years hence, they will be much better drivers than any of us because, in effect, they will have the collective experience of millions.

Once upon a time, there were no cars. That day will come again, and many options, much better in every respect, more reliable, more available, faster, cleaner, more fun, safer,and cheaper will be available.
SteveL
not rated yet May 19, 2011
People with disabilities that prevent them from driving such as myself would finally be able to push a button and have a self-driving car show up and take us where ever we want to go. While the ability to drive is a luxury many of you have taken for granted, there's a large population who has to depend on public transit or the kindness of friends and family in situations where there is no infrastructure to independently get where you need to go.

A very good point, thanks.
Matt_Young
not rated yet May 20, 2011
First, autonomous vehicles are already legal and in use world wide, in the form of lane guided Bus Rapid Transit. They also appear in many private venues, like theme parks, in France, South Korea, and Japan.

Second, autonomous vehicles of all kinds roam our factories and interact with pedestrians all the time.

Finally, should autonomous control be mandatory? One of the main ideas in the Las Vegas legislature are ultra high speed buses, like the Dutch bus that runs at up to 140 MPH. The idea is to move tourists from LA to las Vegas at very high speeds. Do we want human drivers trying to navigate on the same lane as Bus Rapid Transit going 140 MPH?
that_guy
not rated yet May 20, 2011
It's a lot easier to make a vehicle autonomous with designated lanes, painted stripes or embedded magnets for them to follow and preprogrammed routes.

When a car has to deal with unexpected detours, read signs, watch for stop lights, navigate the chaos of traffic, maintain lane position in poorly or unmarked roads, etc - all while obeying traffic laws, it's an order of magnitude more difficult.

Yes there are legal autonomous vehicles, but it's not just a lateral move to make them legal on standard roads.

Autonomous vehicles being mandatory. Not by a long shot. maybe 4 decades from now. As long as it is economically unfeasable to make most or all vehicles autonomous, rules, such as a speed limit(your dutch speed bus would need a dedicated lane, or not speed - but it's human driven anyways) will be made with human drivers in mind.

Your jumping the gun with that question, it's far too early to consider it, as relavent as it may be in the future.
that_guy
not rated yet May 20, 2011
I would suspect that highways would be the first roads to have mandatory autonomous laws.

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