California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow Google (and other companies) to test autonomous vehicles on state-owned roads. The bill – which is similar to those already enacted in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Oklahoma – allows the state to oversee safety and performance standards.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 30,000 to 37,000 fatal car accidents every year. The technology being implemented in autonomous vehicles could reduce that number dramatically, particularly in the case of human error.
That Gov. Brown signed the papers at Google's Mountain View headquarters should come as no surprise. The company has been developing the technology for autonomous vehicles for the past few years with the help of Sebastian Thrun. He's a research professor at Stanford and considered one of the world leaders in the field (his team won the DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous vehicles back in 2006).
As a Google fellow, Thrun founded Google X (home to both the Google Car and Google Glass projects), and the company's co-founder Sergey Brin made a public show of support for the latter during his appearance. He gives an excellent overview of the many potential benefits of autonomous vehicles in Google's official video of the event below.