Wed, May 09, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Google gets first self-driven car permit in Nevada

THE FUTURE IS NOW:The DMV in Nevada plans to eventually license self-driven vehicles owned by the public after officials took a ride in one of Google’s cars

Reuters and AFP, LOS ANGELES

A handout photograph courtesy of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles shows what Google’s self-driven car sees while navigating the road network in Las Vegas on May 1.

Photo: Reuters

Google Inc’s self-driven cars will soon be appearing on Nevada roads after the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved on Monday the nation’s first autonomous vehicle license.

The move came after officials rode along on drives on highways, in Carson City neighborhoods and along the Las Vegas Strip, the Nevada DMV said in a statement.

The Nevada legislature last year authorized self-driven cars for the state’s roads, the first such law in the US. That law went into effect on March 1.

Google’s self-driven cars rely on video cameras, radar sensors, lasers and a database of information collected from manually driven cars to help navigate, according to the company.

The DMV licensed a Toyota Prius that Google modified with its experimental driverless technology, developed by Stanford professor and Google vice president Sebastian Thrun.

Google’s self-driving cars have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and driven along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, according to the company.

Autonomous vehicles are the “car of the future,” Nevada DMV director Bruce Breslow said in a statement. The state also has plans to eventually license autonomous vehicles owned by the members of the public, the DMV said.

Legislation to regulate autonomous cars is being considered in other states, including Google’s home state of California.

“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 analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely,” California state Senator Alex Padilla said in March when he introduced that state’s autonomous car legislation.

Other car companies are also seeking self-driven car licenses in Nevada, the DMV said.

Separately, Toyota Motor Corp unveiled on Monday what it says is the first all-electric sports utility vehicle (SUV) on the market, a version of its popular RAV4 with a top range of 161km and minimum six-hour charge time.

The car will be sold initially only in California with a base price of US$49,800 and the Japanese car company hopes to sell a relatively modest 2,600 units over the next three years.

Toyota Motor Sales USA executive Bob Carter said the company believes the car would “attract sophisticated early technology adopters, much like the first-generation Prius,” Toyota’s pioneering hybrid car launched 15 years ago.

“It’s all about blending the best of two worlds ... The all-new RAV4 EV marries the efficiency of an EV with the versatility of a small SUV — in fact, it is the only all-electric SUV on the market,” he added.

The car, which costs more than twice as much as the gas version of the RAV4 and would have difficulties with out-of-town driving for any distance, may struggle to find a mass appeal.

“It’s designed for consumers who prioritize the environment and appreciate performance,” Carter said, adding that the new car would go on sale later this summer in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

“We look forward to seeing how the market responds,” he added, unveiling the car at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles.

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