By Alexandra Burlacu | May 10, 2012 08:57 AM EDT
Google has officially become the first company to get a license to test its self-driving cars on public roads, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced on Monday, May 7.
Since Nevada drivers could soon be sharing the roads with self-driving vehicles, the DMV made sure such vehicles would be easily recognizable. The autonomous vehicles will feature a license plate specifically designed to officially designate them and set them apart from other cars on the road. These license plates will have a red background (rather hard to go unnoticed), and an infinity symbol on the left-hand side.
'Car of the Future'
"I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the 'car of the future,'" said Bruce Breslow, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles. "The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles. When there comes a time that vehicle manufacturers market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate."
Nevada approved the procedure for licensing such autonomous, self-driving cars back in February. Other states, including California - Google's home state - have also made efforts to develop their own licensing programs. Other than Nevada, however, no other state has actually approved the process, not to mention begun licensing the autonomous cars.
According to the Nevada DMV, Google and DMV officials have tested the vehicles along freeways, state highways and neighborhoods on the crowded Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City. After the tests, the recently-formed Autonomous Review Committee met to review Google's safety plans, system functions, employee training and accident reporting mechanisms. Google has also tested the autonomous vehicle in California, using a Toyota Prius equipped with a laser turret made by Velodyne. According to Velodyne officials, that turret is marketed as a security system.
In addition to the distinctive license plates, Nevada has also imposed another condition. Self-driving vehicle technology is basically like an auto-pilot that guides a vehicle, with little or no intervention from a human operator. Nevada's regulations, however, stipulate that two people must be in the test cars at all times - one behind the wheel and the other in the passenger's seat. The system allows a human operator to take control by stepping on the brakes or turning the wheel. "It's still a work in progress," said DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs. "The system regulates the brakes, accelerator and steering."
(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Dave Clark)
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