California has legalized the self-driving cars being developed by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and General Motors (NYSE:GM), allowing the companies to test them on public roads. The bill does require certain safety guidelines and performance standards from the vehicles, including seating a human driver behind the wheel during tests to take over in case something goes wrong. The legislation is the first step in the public deployment of the cars.
“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said. “This self-driving car is another step forward in this long march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world.”
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Google co-founder Sergey Brin said these autonomous vehicles, which he hopes to make available for consumer sales within five years, could greatly improve public safety by avoiding accidents as well as reduce congestion. “I expect that self-driving cars will be far safer than human driven cars,” Brin said, according to AllThingsD.
Brin was also confident that driverless vehicles soon will be tested soon. “We hope to have employees testing it within the year,” he said. “And my hope is that people will more broadly use this technology within several years … We have fairly ambitious goals. But you can probably count on one hand the number of years until people can experience this.”
Brin said Google’s cars had done about 300,000 miles of road testing, but not without incident. The most the cars were able to achieve without “safety-critical intervention” was about 50,000 miles. “That’s not good enough, and we’re continuing to work to go beyond that,” he added.