Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The future has arrived.
California state senators have voted 37-0 in support of a bill that would allow self-driving vehicles on California streets and highways as long as a licensed driver is aboard, CBS reports.
Self-driving cars, which were pioneered by Google's autonomous Prius in 2010, are designed to be safer than human-driven vehicles.
"Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California's roads," sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), explained to the Los Angeles Times. "For me this is a matter of safety."
Self-driving cars, or "autonomous cars," use radar, video cameras, lasers and a database of information collected from manually-driven cars to navigate. The cars are meant to prevent accidents caused by humans, who can't see in every direction at once and who can be sleepy, distracted or drunk, FOX reports.
Autonomous cars are also desgined to improve the fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and enable cars to talk to one another to improve traffic flow, USA Today reports.
Google posted a video in March of its autonomous Prius being test-driven by a legally blind California man, Steve Mahan. In the remarkable video above, Mahan can be seen behind the wheel and even eating a taco while driving. However, a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said in response, "In order to legally drive a vehicle in California, it must be done so by an appropriately licensed driver," PC Magazine reports.
Padilla's bill, SB 1298, would establish safety and performance standards for autonomous vehicles. After a number of California lawmakers test drove Google's autonomous Prius, the bill received unanimous bipartisan support and will go to the Assembly next month.
"I had the pleasure of going out for a drive on the autonomous vehicle," California state Senator Alan Lowenthal told Reuters. "I have to say that there are some still issues with it, but it's a better driver than I am."
The progress of the bill comes weeks after Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma all announced plans to consider similar legislation, Wired reports. Nevada and Florida already have similar laws in place.
If passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Padilla's bill would go into effect in January 2013.
Above the BMW i3 concept (L) and the BMW i8 concept (R) were on display at the 42nd Tokyo Motor show in Tokyo on November 30, 2011.
(TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)