Driver-less cars will soon be a reality on the roads of Nevada after the state approved America’s first self-driven vehicle license.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has issued the first license plates that will allow Google’s autonomous cars onto public highways. The first to hit the highway will be a Toyota Prius modified by search firm Google, which is leading the way in driver-less car technology.

Nevada is the first state to devise licensing procedures for autonomous vehicles, and Google is the one of the leaders in that field, having hired some of the top talent that took part in the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges. Google‘s fleet will have red Nevada license plates with a Greek infinity symbol, intended to alert other drivers that a computer has control of the vehicle.

Googles Driver-less Car

The car uses video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic. Engineers at Google have previously tested the car on the streets of California, including crossing San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.  For those tests, the car remained manned at all times by a trained driver ready to take control if the software failed. According to software engineer Sebastian Thrun, the car has covered 140,000 miles with no accidents, other than a bump at traffic lights from a car behind.

This is what the car sees while navigating through the roads.

Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles, says he believes driver-less vehicles are the “cars of the future“. Nevada changed its laws to allow self-driven cars in March. The long-term plan is to license members of the public to drive such cars. Google’s car has been issued with a red licence plate to make it recognisable. The plate features an infinity sign next to the number 001. Other states, including California, are planning similar changes.

“The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error,” said California state Senator Alex Padilla, when he introduced the legislation.

“Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely.”

Handout photo of the Google self-driven car in Las Vegas.

 

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