After Nevada, California has become the second state in the US, and well the world for that matter, to legalize self-driving cars. The main developer of self-driving technology for auto-vehicles, Google, believes this to be yet another milestone in motor revolution waiting to unfold.
Governor Edmund "Jerry" Brown signed the bill, SB 1298, alongside Google co-founder Sergey Brin and State Sen. Alex Padilla in Google's very own headquarters in Mountain View, California.
“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality—the self-driving car,” Brown stated.
In order to operate, self-driving cars employ cutting-edge technology in a combination of sensors, imaging algorithms fed by cameras positioned in all angles, steering artificial intelligence system, following lasers and more. In total, Google driver-less fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids have clocked some 300,000 hours on Nevada roads, all without any incidents. That is if you don't count a fender bender accident with one of Google's cars which took place when a human was actually in control.
In 2010, there were 33,000 reported motor related deaths in the US. The technology in place for self-driving cars today will hopefully cut down on the toll. Also, there's the issue of people unfit to drive, either suffering from a permanent injury or handicap like blindness - a self-driving car would offer them a means of transportation. Then there's time - carefree of the actual act of driving, passengers could simply load off and relax, or use the saved time to read, learn a new skill or prepare for a meeting.
Don't imagine you'll see phantom cars without anyone in front of the steering wheel anytime too soon, though. For one, the bill legalizes self-driving cars on Californian roads only if a human passenger is also on board, ready to take over things in case of a malfunction. Still, imagine the laughs you'll get when highway patrol stops a self-driving car. "Licence and registration please?" Priceless.
Here's a video of one Google's self-driving Priuses in action.