At Google HQ, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signs self-driving cars bill
The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operateautonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, California
The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operateautonomousÂ vehicles on state roads and highways.
"Today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality â€” the self-drivingÂ car," Brown said. "Anyone who gets inside aÂ carÂ and finds out theÂ carÂ is driving will be a little skittish, but they'll get over it."
Google has been developingÂ autonomousÂ carÂ technology and lobbying for the regulations. The company's fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has logged more than 300,000 miles (483,000 kilometers) of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.
"I think the self-drivingÂ carÂ can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone," Google co-founder Sergey Brin said.
AutonomousÂ carsÂ can make roads safer, free commuters from the drudgery of driving, reduce congestion and provide transport to people who can't drive themselves, such as the blind, disabled, elderly and intoxicated, Brin said.
"I expect that self-drivingÂ carsÂ will be far safer than human-drivenÂ cars," Brin said.
Brin predicted thatÂ autonomousÂ vehicles will be commercially available within a decade. He said Google has no plans to produce its ownÂ cars, but instead plans to partner with the automobile industry to developautonomousÂ vehicles.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers expressed concern that California is moving too quickly to embrace self-drivingÂ carsÂ and needs to first sort out liability issues.
"Unfortunately this legislation lacks any provision protecting an automaker whoseÂ carÂ is converted to anautonomousÂ operation vehicle without the consent or even knowledge of that auto manufacturer," the trade group said in a statement.
AutonomousÂ carsÂ use computers, sensors and other technology to operate independently, but a human driver can override the autopilot function and take control of the vehicle at any time.
With smartphone-wielding drivers more distracted than ever, backers say robotic vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce collisions and traffic fatalities, noting that nearly allÂ carÂ accidents are a result of human error.
The legislation requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations forÂ autonomousvehicles by Jan. 1, 2015. Currently, state law doesn't mention self-drivingÂ carsÂ because the technology is so new.
The regulations would allow vehicles to operateÂ autonomously, but a licensed driver would still need to sit behind the wheel to serve as a backup operator in case of emergency.
The legislation also is aimed at keeping California at the forefront of theÂ autonomousÂ carÂ industry since Stanford University and Silicon Valley companies have been working on the technology for years.
In recent years, automakers also have been introducingÂ autonomousÂ functions such as self-parking, lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise-control, which allows vehicles to automatically accelerate and decelerate with the flow of traffic.
Outside a cafe in Mountain View, California, customers said they looked forward to a day when theirÂ carsÂ could drive themselves, as long as they could do it safely.
"It would make our streets safer," said Barrett Howard, 33, an auto technician. "We wouldn't have to worry about people texting or getting sidetracked. The computer will take over, and it will make life easier."
Abraham Eshel, a retired mechanical engineer who has vision problems, said self-drivingÂ carsÂ would make his life easier, too.
"If I could tell myÂ car, 'OK, you take over when it's dark,' and I don't have to worry about it, that would be fantastic," said Eshel, who lives in nearby Los Altos. "It's a good idea. Why not make progress if it's possible?"