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Google Wants To Test Self-Driven Cars In Nevada

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On: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 5:44PM | By: Chris Weiss

Google Wants To Test Self-Driven Cars In Nevada

When you're the state with the second highest percentage of public land in the union, you make a natural testing bed for any initiative that could wreak havoc on the general public. Take a look at a map of Nevada and you'll see how public land and dangerous testing come together in the numerous mysterious military installations that occupy its barren lands. Area 51 is just the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, some 80 percent of Nevada is owned and operated by the federal government, giving it the highest percentage of federally owned land in the United States. The state is all casino resorts on its borders, but lots of open, desolate lands filling up its interior.

What better place to test robotic cars? Google is trying to get the Nevada state legislature to become the first in the country to legalize self-driven cars, a project the technology giant has been working on for years. While the company hasn't stated its reasoning for selecting Nevada, I'd have to think it links directly to Nevada's massive amount of sparsely populated public lands and proximity to Google headquarters in California. Presumably, Google plans to test the cars on little traveled desert roads as opposed to the Las Vegas Strip.

Google is behind two bills currently awaiting action in the Nevada state legislature. The first would make testing and licensing autonomous electric vehicles legal in the state, and the second would make texting while driving in the case of self-driven vehicles legal. That latter action would allow the emergency driver the ability to text results and whatnot during testing. A vote is expected before the legislative period ends next month.

Google has hired Las Vegas-based lobbyist David Goldwater to help push its initiatives through.

While cars from major automakers have been employing certain autonomous systems like automatic parallel parking and blind-spot detection, Google has been the public face of the fully autonomous car. Last fall, after keeping its self-driving car program under wraps, Google detailed the project to the media. A fleet of six Toyota Prius models and an Audi TT use a series of advanced laser and radar sensors in conjunction with satellite navigation and video cameras to drive themselves. Once perfected, the self-driven cars are expected to offer increased safety, enhanced fuel efficiency and decreased traffic and pollution. The idea is that drivers wouldn't need to own the cars, but could summon them when needed for transportation—kind of like a fully personalized form of public transportation.

While Google's vision is far from a reality, some analysts predict that self-driven cars will become a technological possibility in under a decade. Of course, the slow speed at which bureaucracies and legal systems adapt could slow down their actual implementation, a fact that makes the pending legislation in Nevada even more interesting.

As long as the robotic cars don't get hooked on liquor, gambling or prostitutes, I think that Nevada should prove an ideal testing bed.


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