Google’s been developing self-driving cars for a while now – their involvement in it is not exactly news. How far along its research has progressed might be. The company is lobbying Nevada lawmakers in the hope that they will introduce legislation to allow its autonomous cars to be driven on Nevada’s public roads.
One of the two pieces of legislation Google is hoping to see added to the state’s road laws is an exemption from the ban on distracted driving. Given that the car will be doing all the driving, it seems only fair that the occupants be able to text message from behind the wheel. The other would allow for the driverless cars to be licensed and tested for use on Nevada’s public roads.
It is not the first time that Google has put its cars on public roads. Its six robotic Priuses and one Audi TT have been subjected to extensive road tests in California. In total, they have logged more than 140,000 miles on Californian roads, including Highway 1, at varying levels of automation. By ensuring that there was a human behind the wheel and ready to take control at all times, and having an engineer in the passenger seat to control the electronic equipment, Google has been able to carry out road tests in California within the bounds of existing law.
There is no suggestion that Google is ready to release robotic cars to Nevada’s public, and the company’s been quick to dismiss any rumors to the contrary. Still, that the search giant is pushing for new legislation does tend to give the impression that its research might be entering a new phase.
Ryan Calo, a legal scholar at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society offered a suggestion as to what Google might be hoping for with the proposed legislative changes:
In some respects this is a great template and a great model. It recognizes a need to create a process to test these vehicles and set aside an area of Nevada where testing can take place.