California legislature approves laws for self-driving cars

google-self-driving-carCalifornia is on its way to becoming the second state to regulate self-driving cars. A new set of laws for the vehicles passed through both houses of the state’s legislature late last week, and is waiting for a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. Autonomous vehicles have been roaming California’s roads for some time, but this is the first time lawmakers have acknowledged their legality.

As with human-controlled cars, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will determine which self-driving cars will be allowed on public roads. Specifically, cars will be required to have a clearly marked, easily used device (perhaps a giant red “off” button) for switching to manual control in an emergency.

California’s approach to Cylonian motoring is similar to Nevada’s. The Silver State was the first to formally legalize self-driving cars; Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill last year and the state’s DMV has been writing rules since then. So far, Nevada is requiring autonomous prototypes to wear red license plates; the Nevada DMV is also working on licensing procedures for companies that want to test their cars on public roads.

Nevada may have been the first state to start writing laws for self-driving cars, but Google’s robotic fleet has logged over 300,000 miles on California roads. Google says its fleet of Toyota Prius and Lexus RX450h hybrids logged all those miles without a single accident One car was involved in a fender-bender, but Google blamed the human driver.

Google pushed hard for the Nevada legislation, possibly fearing the legal fallout that would occur if one of its cars did crash. Without laws on the books, it’s hard to say who is responsible if a self-driving car goes rogue, although the company that put it on the road would probably be in for some bad P.R.

Now, Google has two states to play in. The company plans to take its self-driving cars on morning commutes in the Bay Area, encountering shifting traffic patterns and construction zones. Google also thinks it can reduce the number of people in each car from two to one.

Google also wants to test self-driving cars on snow-covered roads, and the California-Nevada border features one of the most treacherous around: Donner Pass. Should Google send unmanned cars over the Pass, it won’t have to worry about a 21st century version of the Donner Party.

A Donner Pas robo-rally is unlikely, but with new legislation being passed, it’s not surprising to see Google getting more ambitious in its self-driving experiments. Formally legalizing self-driving cars means the company will never have to answer the question of whether a motor vehicle driven by cameras and software should have been on the road in the first place, although some average citizens may be left wondering.


Peloton’s tech lets truckers play follow the leader to boost fuel economy

Peloton Technology can help semi trucks save fuel by running close together on the highway. Using short-range wireless communications, the trucks get a kind of super cruise control.

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.

With 341 horsepower, the WRX STI S209 is the most powerful Subaru ever

The Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest in a series of special editions that have never been sold in the United States before. The 341-horsepower pocket rocket debuts at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

China’s GAC Motor cruises into Detroit with all-electric Entranze concept

Chinese automaker GAC Motor brought its all-electric Entranze concept to the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. This is the third straight year that GAC has appeared in Detroit, and the company has established a design center in California.

2020 Ford Explorer branches out with sporty ST, efficiency-focused hybrid models

The 2020 Ford Explorer gets two variants never before seen on Ford's stalwart family hauler. The ST focuses on performance, while the hybrid aims for decent gas mileage. Both models will debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Some of Volkswagen’s electric models will wear a ‘Made in the USA’ label

Confirming earlier rumors, Volkswagen has announced it will build electric cars in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. The facility currently produces the Passat and the Atlas. Production will start in 2023, Digital Trends can reveal.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti will unveil the QX Inspiration concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language that may point to a future production model.

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.