First of all, 33,000 people die in automobile accidents each year in the United States. While that number might seem low when you consider the amount of cars that ply the highways and byways of the nation each day, automobile fatalities remain the number one killer of those under the age of 45.
Google well on its way
Another criticism from the unaware tends to be the less than proven track record of these automobiles. That may make sense, but Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) has already logged well over 700,000 miles with its fleet of tests cars. When you combine that with the fact that you could be reading this article from a phone that has more computing power than NASA had in total during the moon landing, the technology is certainly there or on its way to make self-driving cars a safe reality.
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“Google is uniquely positioned to solve this problem,” said Dmitri Dolgov, the software lead on the project. “There’s a whole research field in taking a map and comparing it to your position.”
The California Department of Motor Vehicles seems to agree. For those that have seen Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s self-driving cars and assumed that they were operating legally are a bit mistaken. They are driving themselves both around the roads of Silicon Valley and the grey area of the law.
Self-driving cars: The regulations
Today, the department laid down a set of regulations for the testing to self-driving cars that will go into effect on September 16, 2014.
Under the new regulations, vehicle manufacturers must obtain a testing permit. From there they are far from in compliance and:
- Manufacturer must register the test vehicle with DMV
- Manufacturer completed previous autonomous vehicle testing under controlled conditions
- Manufacturer uses qualified test drivers who complete a training program and obey all provisions of the Vehicle Code.
- Manufacturer test drivers sit in the driver seat and are capable of immediately taking control of the vehicle
- Manufacturer reports to DMV any accident involving a test vehicle or any situation where the autonomous technology disengages during operation
- Manufacturer maintains $5 million insurance or surety bond.
Oddly, as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) doesn’t “manufacture” autonomous cars, the real pioneer would seem to be off the hook but “manufacturer” is extended to those that modify cars making Google subject to the new regulations.
The DMV is also developing rules for the public’s use of self-driving cars and expects them to be in place by the first of the year, 2015. For those that have wasted a day renewing their license in the offices of the California DMV this must read absurd. Six hours for a simple renewal but only seven months to put robot killers on the road?
Nevada already has its own regulations in place and have even designed a specific license plate for autonomous cars. California also said today that it would allow cars complying with other states regulations to be tested in California once registered.
Naysayers and opponents of robo-cars beware, the machines are coming.