Published May 08, 2012
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada has granted Google what is believed to be the first U.S. license to test driverless cars.
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles announced Monday it has approved Google's application to test the autonomous vehicles on public streets. However, the DMV will require at least two people in the vehicles during testing, including one in the driver's seat.
Before it was approved, the car was tested on freeways and in neighborhoods around Carson City and Las Vegas, Fox 5 reports. The tests showed the car was just as safe, if not safer, than a human driver.
"It gets honked at more often because it's being safe," said Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow.
Self-driving vehicle technology works like auto-pilot to guide a car with little or no intervention from a human operator. 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.
If there is a glitch, the human driver can take over simply by tapping the brake or turning the steering wheel.
The driverless vehicles being tested will be denoted by red license plates, Fox 5 reports. The license plates also have an infinity symbol on them, which the DMV says represents their status as "the car of the future."
The DMV says if and when the cars begin to be used by the general public, the license plates will be green.
In February, state lawmakers passed regulations making Nevada the first state to set rules for autonomous vehicle testing.
"These regulations establish requirements companies must meet to test their vehicles on Nevada's public roadways as well as requirements for residents to legally operate them in the future," DMV Director Bruce Breslow told Fox 5.
Last summer, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval took the car for a spin in and around the state's quiet capital city. 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.