California is the newest state to allow self-driving cars to drive on public streets for the purpose of testing.
State residents will now have to watch out both for reckless drivers and reckless cars without drivers. But the cars won't be completely rider-less. The law only allows for self-driving cars when a human passenger is along for the ride.
California isn't the first state to allow self-driving cars but the measure is far from common. Proponents claim the cars will promote safety.
Cars are still dangerous as far as transportation goes and thousands of Americans die in car accidents every year, according to the law's sponsor, California State Senator Alex Padilla.
The hope is that self-driving cars will bring down the number of accidents and keep people safe. Self-driving cars have logged hundreds of thousands of miles on road in Nevada and Florida, where they are legal. In all that time the cars have only had one minor fender bender that happened while a person was in control of the car.
The over-sized gadget is about more than public safety, reports CNN. Self-driving cars could provide transportation for people who can't drive, including the blind and the elderly.
What no one talked about during the ceremony where Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law is liability.
When a driver causes an accident, it's obvious that they are at fault and will have to pay for any damages or injury. But if the car is self-driving then who is at fault for the accident?
There's also the issue of who would own them, how they would be insured and licensed, and if they will ever be allowed to 'drive' without a human.
For now those questions remain unanswered since self-driving cars, while approved, aren't ready for mass production yet. But Sergey Brin believes the cars will be available to everyone within five years, reports The Wall Street Journal.
- Calif. Governor to Sign Self-Driving Car Bill at Google Headquarters (PC Magazine)
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- Long Live Tech in 2012: But Don't Forget the 'Off' Button (FindLaw's Technologist)