Google’s self-driving car legalised in California

Macworld Australia Staff
26 September, 2012
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Google’s self-driving vehicles have been made legal in California after the state’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this week that authorises the technology.

According to a report by AllThings the bill “essentially establishes safety guidelines and performance standards for autonomous vehicles operating on California’s roads and highways.”

This means that self-driving vehicles are now authorised for testing on public roads, providing a human driver is behind the wheel at all times, and able to take control of the car, in case of emergency.

Governor Brown said the bill enabled advanced technology to begin its course of implementation as “tomorrow’s reality”, as opposed to remaining a “science fiction” concept.

“This self-driving car is another step forward in this long march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world, ” Brown said.

The Google self-driving project uses Toyota Priuses fitted out with cameras, radar sensors and laser range-finders to detect and monitor traffic, while advanced software accesses Google Maps to navigate the roads.

But how safe are the fleet of autonomous vehicles in real-life scenarios?

We reported last month that recent findings from a series of tests conducted by Google show the cars  are safer than actual drivers. The test-drives covered 300,000 miles (482, 803km) in a ‘wide range of conditions,’ without any reported accidents – an improvement on accidents recorded in previous testing with drivers behind the wheel.

And it seems the market for autonomous vehicles is attracting interest from other industry players, with news that a group of Australian scientists at Griffin University are working on developing technology that will allow smartphones to operate cars on the roads, using a handset’s camera function, multiple sensors and vehicle-to-phone integration.

Dr. Jun Jo, leading the project, believes that the way we use cars in the future will be very different to the way we access them now.

“We believe cars will become shared properties rather than individual belongings,” Jo said.

“Sharing cars will reduce lots of expenditure and solve a lot of traffic congestion in the middle of cities. My smartphone could reserve a car near my house and, then when I leave home, I place my mobile phone in the dashboard and my smartphone actually knows where to go and what is my preferred driving style. Then when I get out of the car the phone will fix payment for the time I spent in it and for the fuel consumed.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz recently announced that it will integrate Apple’s Siri voice-assisted technology into its future cars, via a special app that will also translate an iPhone’s screen onto the in-car display, so you can listen to music, change radio stations or update your Facebook and Twitter status.

Now that Google has authorisation to test its self-driving cars on California’s public roads, the automotive industry is one step closer to re imagining transport and operations as we currently know it. Watch this space!



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