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California Approves Driverless Cars on Public Roads
September 25, 2012

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Driverless cars are now allowed on California public roads.

Jerry Brown, the governor of California, signed into law a series of performance and safety regulations that would ensure that cars driven by software would adhere to road rules and expectations of drivers behind the wheels of other cars.

The cars, driven by Google software, are not fully autonomous; rather, they incorporate a system of video cameras, lasers, and radar sensors to steer the car, without need for human input. Human drivers are in the cars, of course, behind the steering wheel, and can take over at a moment's notice.

Brown, who rode to the law-signing ceremony in a Toyota Prius that steered itself, championed the technology as a peek into the future, available today.

It is a time-saver in that the cars can travel more closely together than humans would safely get, with the software ensuring that a safe distance is maintained. It is an energy-saver in that cars can travel in the slipstream of the vehicle ahead of them.

A large handful of American, German, and Japanese automakers are working on autonomous technology. Some exists already. Some vehicles are equipped with self-parking systems.

The California law takes effect in 2013. Two other states, Florida and Nevada, already have similar laws.

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