A bill allowing self-driving cars on California streets was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 25.
Brown signed the bill at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View alongside Google co-founder Sergey Brin and state Sen. Alex Padilla, who authored the bill.
California is now the third state that will allow these innovative vehicles on the road.
Senate Bill 1298 will not only authorize the operation of an autonomous vehicle on public roads for testing purposes, but also establish safety and performance guidelines.
The bill requires a human driver to be behind the wheel at all times so that the car can be manually controlled in case of an emergency.
Google, the California Institute of Technology and other organizations have been working to develop the innovative cars for years.
Google, however, has been somewhat of a poster child for self-driving cars and were one of the first to report its experimental runs in 2010, which is likely why the bill signing ceremony took place at its headquarters.
The driverless cars are equipped with GPS, radar, video cameras, lasers and a significant amount of computing power. They use GPS and maps to navigate on roads and have sensors installed to react to change while on the road.
According to Mikhail Gofman, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at Cal State Fullerton, these self driving cars will also have a communication system of their own.
“I’ve seen some research where they are trying to develop automatic accident avoidance algorithm, so basically each car communicates with each other car. For example, let’s say there are cars driving and there is an obstacle. The algorithm will tell each car how to pass to avoid an accident,” said Gofman.
To date, Google has reported more than 300,000 miles of results with no accidents.
According to HybridCars.com, former General Motors research and development executive Larry Burns said, “By 2015 we’re going to have auto companies selling features that are akin to cruise control on steroids… By 2020 we’ll have self driving cars.”
Brown’s passage of the bill will now provide developers the legal support to modify and improve driverless cars since there are obstacles to overcome before they are cruising around without someone behind the wheel.
NPR reported in early October that Google’s self-driving cars still need some adjustments.
The report found that the there are still a few things these computer-driven cars could not do yet, like move in reverse and detect temporary road signs and dangerous weather conditions, like snow.
Another issue to be resolved before the mass production and use of driverless cars are the laws regarding traffic violations made by computer error.
David Velasquez, a theatre major, said he is torn between the benefits and concerns self-driving cars will present.
Velasquez feels that self-driving cars might create a loss of jobs for people like taxi drivers, but that their mass production will make life easier.
“I feel self-driving cars will enable us to lose the opportunity to drive but at the same time it can make the streets safer, and that can save lives,” he said.
The price to mass produce such advanced technology will also have to decrease to be a profitable product. Reports have shown that the technology put into a driverless car is currently up to $150,000, well above what most consumers are able to pay.
Despite some flaws, the improvements self-driving cars can make are the reason for they are a main focus of Google and now the state.
Orange County Transportation Authority spokeswoman Laura Shepard said as of now, public transportation has not addressed the impact that self-driving vehicles will have.
“Yes I do encourage this type of research because of the possibility’s which it evolves. If we could implement an algorithm for avoiding accidents how much better will that be,” Gofman said.