Written by Jonny Williamson
The first vehicle to take advantage of the approved licence will be a Toyota Prius, after being heavily customised by internet giant Google, who are currently the leaders in making driverless cars an everyday reality.
The car is able to function due to a host of sophisticated technology constantly monitoring and adapting to changes in the surrounding environment. A roof-mounted video camera, coupled with an array of sensors and lasers detect other vehicles, pedestrians and any potential obstacles.
So far a test vehicle has clocked up almost 140,000 miles across America, including California’s Pacific Coast Highway and San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, with an onboard driver ready to take control at any time. To date the only incident to have occurred was a minor bump at a set of traffic lights from a vehicle behind.
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Following Nevada’s decision to allow self-driven cars on its roads, other states are thought to be considering instigating their own changes.
California State Senator, Alex Padilla, commented when he introduced the controversial legislation:
“The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error. Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analysing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely.”
At the moment it would seem that other countries are less keen to so quickly embrace driverless vehicles. Executive Director of Britain’s Parliamentary Council for Transport Safety, Robert Gifford offered his opinion:
“Our regulations require a driver to be in control of the vehicle at all times. It would be impossible for these cars to be allowed on our roads. There are cars which already park themselves and the need is there for the driver to be assisted, but not replaced by the technology. The government has to understand how the technology will develop over the next decade and get ahead of the game rather than respond to it.”