New law gives driverless cars green light in California as Google moves ahead with development

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, turned up at Google HQ in a driverless car on Tuesday for the signing of a document to make such vehicles legal in California.

The bill, authored by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, establishes safety guidelines and performance regulations for testing and operating self-driving vehicles on California’s roads and highways.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, reportedly sporting a pair of the company’s in-development high-tech specs, was present at the signing ceremony. His company has been at the forefront of developing driverless technology with its fleet of 12 self-driving vehicles. The company claims to have driven over 300,000 miles in tests, without suffering a single bump – if you don’t count this one in August last year.

Commenting on what a driverless car could mean for road users, Brin said, “It really has the power to change people’s lives, that’s why I’m really excited about it.”

Brin said there are many kinds of people under-served by today’s transportation system who could potentially make use of driverless vehicles, including the blind and those too young to drive.

He added that the driverless car was only a few years away from making a real impact on people’s lives, saying “You can count on one hand the number of years before people can experience this.” Some skeptics will doubtless be wondering if Sergey has discovered a 20-fingered hand somewhere that he hasn’t told us about.

As the Washington Post points out in its report, the new law doesn’t allow Google to begin selling driverless cars. Rather, it puts down guidelines for what steps still need to be taken with the development of the special vehicles, and outlines the kind of testing still required. The California Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, has been given until 2015 to draw up new regulations for driverless cars.

The new legislation does, however, mark another step towards the day when instead of driving your car with your hands, feet and brain, you’ll be able to deal with more pressing matters on the way to your destination, like finishing off that game of Words With Friends or updating your Facebook page with photos from your last vacation.

[Image: Vava Vladimir Jovanovic / Shutterstock]

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