In an attempt to try to reduce California car accidents in the future, self-driving cars are now allowed on California roads. Jerry Brown, the governor of California, just signed a bill that allows the testing of self-driving cars on California streets.
Yesterday, Gov. Brown, at a ceremony held at Google’s headquarters located in Mountain View California, signed into law, SB1298, which establishes guidelines for “autonomous vehicles” to be tested and operated on California roads. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Alex Padilla (Democrat from Pacoima). According to the Los Angeles Times, Senator Padilla said, “We are stepping on the accelerator when it comes to the Google Car.”
It is well known that the cause of most car and other motor vehicle accidents is human error. It is believed that “autonomous car technology” can reduce the number of accidents and, therefore, the number of injuries and deaths on California roads.
Google, Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin stated, “These vehicles have the potential to avoid accidents … We can save lives, create jobs and reduce congestion. I expect the self-driving cars will be far safer than human driven cars.”
This project is not exclusively Google’s. Caltech and others also have been working to develop cars that use radar, video cameras and lasers to safely navigate roads and safely operate in traffic conditions without any human assistance. Their contention is that these computer-controlled vehicles should eventually drive more safely than human operators.
Under the test conditions approved in this new law, the self-driving cars MUST still have a licensed driver at the wheel, ready to take over should anything go wrong. This new law also provides for the following:
• Sets safety and performance standards for the safe operation of “autonomous vehicles” on California’s public roads, including the previously mentioned requirement that a licensed driver be behind the wheel at all times during these test drives.
• Allows for the actual operation of “autonomous vehicles” on public streets, so long as there is a licensed driver behind the wheel.
• Requires that all “autonomous vehicles” meet all applicable safety standards and performance requirements under both state and federal laws.
• Allows the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in consultation with the California Department of motor Vehicles (DMV), to recommend additional rules and requirements for the safe operation of such “autonomous cars” on California streets.
California is not the first state to enact legislation allowing the testing of “autonomous vehicles.” Nevada was the first to sign into law similar legislation last year, and other states, including Arizona, Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma, are considering similar laws.
What do you think of “autonomous vehicles”? How would you feel seeing one driving alongside you while approaching a busy intersection? Will these “autonomous cars” be able to recognize and avoid a “jaywalking” pedestrian? Will this lead to more pedestrian accidents? Assuming they become a reality, how many years away do you think we are from seeing the first real driverless “autonomous car” on our California roads? Will it take just one bad car accident, perhaps like the one bad call by the replacement referees in last Monday night’s infamous Green Bay vs. Seahawks NFL game, to scuttle the project?
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