Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Autonomous Car Reviews and Legislation

California's Senate passed a bill that allows autonomous cars to drive on California's roads:

A bill that allows for the use of self-driving cars on California’s roads passed the California State Senate.
SB1298 by State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would establish guidelines for such "autonomous vehicles" to be tested and operated in California. The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration next month.
Tech giant Google Inc., Caltech and other organizations have been working to develop such vehicles, which use radar, video cameras and lasers to navigate roads and stay safe in traffic without human assistance. Google has said that computer-controlled cars should eventually drive more safely than humans, who, after all, get sleepy and distracted and can't see in every direction at once.
Padilla said his bill passed without objection, a demonstration of the bipartisan support the technology has engendered.
 Google's autonomous car is reviewed. Apparently the car can't use turn signals yet. You'd think it was a BMW or something:
Since the Google car only just got its learner's permit, it drives accordingly. During our test loop, it stopped a few times for phantom threats, like a parked truck that was just a little wider than the cars around it. Then there was the jerking halt on a side street caused by a car that stopped a little abruptly almost two car lengths ahead.
When it wasn't sure what to do, the car would hand control back to the driver, announcing it was doing so in a friendly female voice. (The driver can always take control at any time by just by moving the steering wheel or touching the pedals, even slightly.) "Self driving" was resumed by pushing a big green button on the Prius's center console near the even bigger red "kill switch."
Surprisingly, one thing the car can't do all on its own is use the turn signals. The driver still has to do that.
"That's been on our to-do list for a long time now," said the engineer riding shotgun.
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