Nevada first to grant licences for autonomous cars

Google's autonomous cars have hit public streets and highways in Nevada, US, as the state becomes the first to give out licences for testing driverless vehicles.

Nevada is known as being one of the most lenient states in the US when it comes to gambling, fireworks and getting married; and now it's extending that easy-going attitude to driverless cars.

As of this week, Nevada is the first state to let Google's self-driving cars on the roads. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued the tech giant the first licence, to see just how these cars act and react on busy streets and highways, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

"We're excited to receive the first testing licence for self-driving vehicles in Nevada," a Google spokesperson told CNET. "We believe the state's framework — the first of its kind — will help speed up the delivery of technology that will make driving safer and more enjoyable."

Nevada has led the charge in enacting legislation to permit autonomous vehicles on the roads. In 2011, its legislature passed the first law in the US to allow self-driving cars to be tested. According to the law, the cars are required to have two people in the vehicle, while being tested — one behind the wheel and one in the front passenger seat.

"It's still a work in progress," DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs told the Las Vegas Sun. "The system regulates the brakes, accelerator and steering."

These driverless cars are capable of driving to specific locations, based on visual indicators, artificial intelligence software, GPS and a range of sensors. Google, which hired a team of robotics experts to develop the system, says it has completed more than 300,000km of computer-led driving on private tracks since 2010.

The company's goal for developing autonomous cars is to "help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," said Google software engineer Sebastian Thrun, in a blog post last year.

Other US states looking to allow autonomous vehicle testing are California, Oklahoma, Hawaii and Florida. California is considering the "Robotic Car Bill", which would task the state's Highway Patrol with developing rules and regulations for testing driverless cars on public roads by companies, and then, eventually, by consumers.

Google's fleet of self-driving cars includes six Toyota Prii, one Audi TT and one Lexus RX450h, according to the Las Vegas Sun. So far, DMV officials have been on test drives through the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City.


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