Nevada has given the go-ahead for the nation’s first test of self-driving cars on public streets, issuing a license to Google for the tryout after demonstrations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City reportedly showed that the project is safe, The Washington Post reports.
“Self-driving vehicle technology works like auto-pilot to guide a car — in this case a modified Prius — with little or no intervention from a human operator,” the story reports. “Laser radar mounted on the roof and in the grill detects pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, creating a virtual buffer zone around the obstacles that the car then avoids.”
The technology is still a ways off from the point where a robotic car can drop off a passenger and then go look for a parking space, the story notes. During the test, two human occupants will be required in each test car — one behind the wheel and one monitoring the car’s route on a computer screen. Tapping the brakes or grabbing the steering wheel overrides the automatic functions.
“Last summer, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval took the car for a spin in and around the state’s quiet capital city,” the report notes. “But Las Vegas Boulevard, where costumed superheroes routinely take the crosswalks and massive billboards angle for the attention of starry-eyed tourists, was perhaps best suited to test the car’s main purpose.”
Said Nevada DMV director Bruce Breslow: “They’re designed to avoid distracted driving. When you’re on the Strip and there’s a huge truck with a three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box.”
Three vehicles have been approved for testing, and will carry red plates and an infinity symbol — indicative of their status as vehicles of the future, the story reports. They’re not expected to go on the market for three to five years, the story adds.