Google has been on the front edge of developing self-driving cars. Last year Google confirmed test-driving robotic hybrid vehicles more than 140,000 miles in California.
Google is now quietly lobbying in favor of legislation that would legalize the operation of these vehicles on public roads in Nevada. Two bills have been introduced, but have received very little attention outside of Nevada’s Capitol. The primary measure would be an amendment to an existing electric-vehicle bill that would allow the testing of autonomous vehicles. The second goal is looking for an exemption to allow texting in automated vehicles.
Google claims to have developed cars that can be driven without human intervention, and they would be safer than human-operated cars. Their full commercial intent still isn’t known, and Google is declining comment on why they believe Nevada is their targeted state for initial testing. Jay Nancarrow, a company spokesman, said the project was still in the testing phase.
Google hired David Goldwater, a Las Vegas-based lobbyist, to promote the measures. Goldwater argued before the State Assembly that automated technology is safer than human drivers, can offer better fuel efficiency and provide economic development.
Nevada is considering commercial deployment of vehicles that park themselves, can perform deliveries and even act as automated taxis on the Las Vegas Stip. No other state is currently considering such legislation.
Safety systems based on artificial intelligence are becoming embedded into today’s cars, but autonomous systems create safety concerns and liability issues.
“In some respects this is a great template and a great model,” said Ryan Calo, a legal scholar at Stanford Law School. “It recognizes a need to create a process to test these vehicles and set aside an area of Nevada where testing can take place.”
In Google’s testing program, each automated vehicle is overseen by a driver and a passenger that monitors the electronics equipment. The element of human oversight has allowed Google to avoid legal action