California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a new bill that will allow and regulate autonomous cars on the state's roadways. The bill was first introduced by Democratic Senator Alex Padilla. Governor Brown rode in one of Google's self-driving Toyota Priuses before signing the bill yesterday.
Under California's new bill, autonomous cars can be driven for testing purposes, so long as there is a licensed driver behind the wheel who can take control in an emergency. The law also requires the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to prepare new safety, licensing, and testing regulations for self-driving cars by January 2015.
"Autonomous vehicles are another example of how California's technological leadership is turning today’s science fiction into tomorrow's reality," Governor Brown said in a statement.
The impetus for this bill was largely spurred by Google's efforts to build self-driving cars. The company's autonomous Toyota Prius fleet has already logged over 300,000 miles under computer control, and now Google is adding a self-driving Lexus RX450h crossover. Earlier this year, the state of Nevada passed a law allowing self-driving cars on its roads, so long as the cars have a special red license plate.
In an emailed statement, a Google spokesperson told us, "Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly increase driving safety. We applaud Senator Padilla and the California legislature for building a thoughtful framework to enable safe, ongoing testing of the technology."
Several other groups also are developing self-driving vehicles. Volvo has successfully tested a "road train" in which vehicles automatically follow one another at close distances on highways. And team from Stanford University has built an Audi TTS coupe that can navigate California's Thunderhill Raceway without any driver intervention.
Sources: CA Office of the Governor, Google