Google's self-driving cars win big in Nevada

Autonomous cars hit public streets and highways in Nevada -- this is the first state to give out licenses for testing driverless cars.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Google's self-driving car. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Nevada is known as being one of the most lenient states when it comes to gambling, fireworks, and getting married; and now it's extending that easygoingness to driverless cars.

As of today, Nevada is the first state to let Google's self-driving cars on the roads. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles issued the tech giant the first license to see just how these cars act and react on busy streets and highways, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

"We're excited to receive the first testing license for self-driving vehicles in Nevada," a Google spokesperson told CNET. "We believe the state's framework -- the first of its kind -- will help speed up the delivery of technology that will make driving safer and more enjoyable."

Nevada has led the charge in enacting legislation to permit autonomous vehicles on the roads. In 2011, its legislature passed the first law in the U.S. to allow self-driving cars to be tested. According to the law, the cars are required to have two people in the car while being tested -- one behind the wheel and one in the front passenger seat.

"It's still a work in progress," DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs told the Las Vegas Sun. "The system regulates the brakes, accelerator and steering."

These driverless cars are capable of driving to specific locations based on visual indicators, artificial intelligence software, GPS, and a range of sensors. Google, which hired a team of robotics experts to develop the system, says it completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving on private tracks since 2010.

The company's goal for developing autonomous cars is to "help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time, and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," said Google software engineer Sebastian Thrun in a blog post last year.

Other states looking to allow autonomous vehicle testing are California, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Florida. California is considering the "robotic car bill," which would task the state's Highway Patrol with developing rules and regulations for testing driverless cars on public roads by companies and then eventually by consumers.

Google's fleet of self-driving cars includes six Toyota Priuses, one Audi TT, and one Lexus RX450h, according to the Las Vegas Sun. So far, DMV officials have been on test-drives through the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City.