Nevada is now officially the first state in the USA where the operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads is regulated by law. The regulations approved by the Legislative Commission of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles set out guidelines for companies who want to test autonomous vehicles on public roadways. They also include a set of requirements for people who'd like to "drive" such vehicles.
The legislative effort started six months ago and involved consultation with car manufacturers, insurance companies, testing professionals, universities, law enforcement agencies, and Google. Not all work is done yet (licensing procedures are still being developed, for example) and self-driving cars are not going to be made street-legal immediately, but the regulations are likely to serve as an inspiration for other states that are also considering opening up to this technology.
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In Nevada, the autonomous vehicles will be marked with red license plates during testing. Should the technology be approved, the color will change to green (normal registration plates are grayish). The purposes of particular tests will have to be disclosed to the state authorities, along with information on how the vehicles are likely to behave in different weather conditions.
The cars will have to have at least two people inside, with one person able to take control if necessary. Each vehicle is to be equipped with a black box-type device to store data from the autonomous system sensors, so that it's possible to retrieve information from at least 30 seconds before a collision.
"Nevada is the first state to embrace what is surely the future of automobiles," said Bruce Breslow, the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is very good news for Google. The company announced back in 2010 that its autonomous cars have already been extensively tested and traveled 160,000 miles (257,495 kilometers) without an accident (although one of the cars was involved in a pile-up caused by a human). The Google-modified Toyota Prius is not the only driverless car waiting in the queue, however, with Audi and Volkswagen already well-versed in the game.
We are unlikely to see a comprehensive autonomous transportation system like the autonomo concept anytime soon, but it's high time for autonomous cars to start showing-off their amazing skills on the public roads.