According to the New York Times, Google is secretly lobbying for legislation that would make self-driving cars legal in the state of Nevada. Google’s own fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius hybrids have already logged more than 140,000 miles during testing in California, but if new legislation comes to fruition, Nevada could become the first state where such vehicles could be legally operated on public roads.
Since these vehicles can be driven completely autonomously without input from the driver, the proposed legislation would also allow them to be exempt from the ban on distracted driving, giving drivers the ability to send text messages while seated behind the wheel.
Google continues to test and demonstrate this technology, but the search company has yet to indicate any commercial intent. It’s also unclear why the company wants Nevada to be the first state where robotic cars could be used. Policy analysts say Nevada is perfect because vehicles could be tested as automated taxis on the Las Vegas strip.
“In some respects this is a great template and a great model,” said Ryan Calo, a legal scholar at the Center for Internet and Society 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.”
Realistically, self-driving cars probably won’t become a mainstream phenomenon any time soon. However, consumers are nevertheless intrigued by such technology. For instance, visitors among DC Acura dealers are drawn to the premium brand’s lineup because of innovative technologies like voice recognition, electronic Drive-by-Wire systems, and adaptive cruise control. With these systems already widely available, Google is simply taking these technologies one step further and combining them to create an entirely new driving experience.
Whether Google successfully gets legislation passed, artificial intelligence seems destined to come to automobiles. That could explain why numerous automakers, including Mercedes and Volkswagen, have already setup research facilities in California’s Silicon Valley.