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Google's self-driving car gets a green light from Nevada

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Last week, Nevada passed a bill that would create guidelines for the safe operation of "autonomous vehicles" aka robot cars.

It's no big secret that Google would prefer that cars drive themselves. Last year, Google announced it was developing self-driving vehicles and since then have been continually testing the prototypes on public roads.

Here's what the company said in 2010:

We’ve always been optimistic about technology’s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today. While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting.

Anyone familiar with how Google goes about their ventures knows that the company wasn't running these tests and demonstrations merely to show off how innovative and forward-thinking they can be.

Still, popular theories regarding Google's specific intentions amounted to nothing more than educated guesses. That was until reporters at The New York Times did some digging last month and discovered that the company had been lobbying the Nevada state legislature to allow for autonomous cars to be driven on public streets. The proposal was slated to be introduced as two separate bills that would not only make them street legal, but also exempt the vehicles from a law prohibiting texting while driving.

Now a report from Forbes suggests that the search giant is about to have their wishes granted.

Last week, Nevada passed a bill for the Department of Motor Vehicles to create guidelines for "autonomous vehicles" that rely on artificial intelligence to get around on state roads. Come March of next year, state officials will start to iron out car certification standards, insurance requirements and other regulations for robotic cars. Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles will also determine which areas the cars can be driven.

While the move technically doesn't mean that the autonomous vehicles have the state's legal blessing to operate on state roadways, it's certainly a good sign and puts the company in a enviable position to receive a final approval.

Also working in their favor is data that shows that over a million people are killed in car accidents every year, a statistic that the company has often pointed out in an effort to win support for their research. The cars are designed to safely navigate the road using an array of hi-tech equipment such as "video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps" and information from their data centers, according to Google.

Even so, they haven't exactly been completely accident-free. One of the test vehicles was rear-ended by a human driver.

(via CNET)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure