California Now Allows Self-Driving CarsA second state now allows autonomous cars on the road. California has signed in a bill, SB1298, that allows for a vehicle controlled by a computer to navigate itself. Like the Nevada law, there are some serious restrictions (fees and a kill switch come to mind), but things are moving forward. At this rate, a driverless car will be the first major robot most people own.
People are optimistic that other states will fall in line, too, and that some of the ridiculous regulations currently in place will be dropped. Said Sergey Brin, "You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this." Google plans on giving these cars to its employees, so that the machines can keep gathering more data and becoming better drivers.
There is still a lot for Google to do before self-driving cars are ready for your average consumer, but already the contraptions have driven over 300,000 miles without incident (there has been one accident, but the human was driving at that point). The machines have driven through all types of weather, including heavy rain and snow.
Self-driving cars might do wonders for the highways of tomorrow. Many of the problems we currently face, from bad driving to inefficient use of space on the road, can be fixed by cars that drive for us. A short-range network connecting the cars together could let them exchange traffic information, even perhaps cluster. As long as a car in the back has the information from the front car, a pack of self-driving vehicles could drive within inches of each other. Considering that most traffic congestion happens because vehicles aren't packed efficiently at some point on the road, that's a big deal.
Plus, a self-driving car won't run a stoplight. Or speed. Or glance away to fiddle with the radio. Or fall asleep. It just keeps plodding away, plotting your course. Even if self-driving cars never prove to be 100% safe, surely they can't be worse than your average human driver.