UK & World News
Driverless Cars Get Green Light In California
Cars that drive themselves could be on sale in the next 10 years after the California state governor signed safety and testing legislation.
Governor Jerry Brown rode to Google headquarters in a self-driving Toyota Prius before signing the bill by Democratic Senator Alex Padilla to establish safety and performance regulations to test the vehicles on state roads.
"Today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality - the self-driving car," Mr Brown said.
"Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish, but they'll get over it."
Google has been developing autonomous car technology and lobbying for the regulations for years.
The company's fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has logged more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.
"I think the self-driving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone," the company's co-founder Sergey Brin said.
He claimed the cars would make roads safer, reduce congestion and provide transport to people who can't drive themselves, such as the blind, disabled and elderly.
"I expect that self-driving cars will be far safer than human-driven cars," added Mr Brin, who predicted that the vehicles will be commercially available within a decade.
He said Google has no plans to produce its own cars, but instead would partner with the car industry to develop them.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has expressed concern that California is moving too quickly.
The trade group said in a statement: "Unfortunately this legislation lacks any provision protecting an auto maker whose car is converted to an autonomous operation vehicle without the consent or even knowledge of that auto manufacturer."
Autonomous cars 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.
The regulations would allow vehicles to operate autonomously, but a licensed driver would still need to sit behind the wheel to serve as a back-up operator in case of emergency.
Car makers such as Audi AG, BMW AG, Ford and Volvo have been working on driverless car technology for some time.