The California State Senate passed a bill this week allowing Google’s self-driving car to be tested on public roads. The bill sets regulations for conditions all autonomous vehicles would have to meet to be allowed on the roads. The bill must first pass through the state’s Assembly next month before fully passing.
SB1298, introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, passed through the State Senate unanimously, proving that these advancements in technology are a bipartisan issue. Several California policymakers did a test run in the Toyota Prius prototype and came away impressed and ready to bring this technology to California, according to Padilla.
Though Google has been quick to say they don’t intend for the autonomous vehicles to replace human drivers, but rather aid them, Padilla pointed out that most accidents are caused by human mistakes and for him safety is a top priority. If these cars are safer than traditional vehicles by kicking in where humans mess up and can limit the number of injuries and fatalities that happen on California road then he’s on board. Further, Padilla thinks that these cars can improve fuel efficiency through controlling themselves and improve traffic by communicating with each other while on the road.
Caltech, Audi, BMW, and Volvo are developing self-driving vehicles along with Google. The cars use a system of lasers, radar, and video cameras for detecting obstacles and to self-navigate on roads. Google claims that they expect with time the autonomous vehicles will drive more safely than a human and make up for those human errors that cause accidents. An autonomous car won’t get distracted, tired while driving, or take its eyes off the road ever, plus it can see all around its perimeter, unlike a human driver.
All states working toward putting self-driving cars on their roads, including California, Nevada, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Arizona require that a human driver remains behind the wheel should anything happen while being tested. Guidelines in SB1298 create standards for safety and performance for safe use of autonomous cars on the public roads of California. It allows only licensed drivers the ability to test the cars and mandates that all self-driving cars must first pass performance tests and meet all state and federal safety laws regarding road safety. It also allows police officers, highway patrol, and the DMV to suggest any other requirements they feel necessary to ensure the safety of California drivers in the presence of the self-driving vehicles.
If you live in a state not yet working toward putting the autonomous vehicles on your roads, you’ll just have to keep using limo services in Massachusetts, taxicabs in New York, and planes if you don’t want to transport yourself places. Padilla has had no trouble garnering support from both sides of our political system and from other major contenders like Google, TechAmerica, TechNet, and the Auto Club of Southern California. Most people seem to support testing and developing this technology and before long, we might have self-driving cars on public roads in all states.