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Driverless Toyota Prius

Autonomous vehicles may be in the USA within the next decade, or so thinks the technology’s developer, Google. This is, of course, if all regulation tests can be passed. Jerry Brown, the governor of California, visited the Google headquarters in a driverless Toyota Prius before signing legislation that will open up the possibility for the use of autonomous driving in the state.

The legislative bill, which was set up by Alex Padilla, a Democratic senator, will determine the safety and performance policy required to test autonomous driving for operation on California highways and roads.

Toyota Prius Plus

Toyota Prius Plus pictured above.

Google Developed Self Driving Technology

Google has been petitioning for the policy since it started developing the technology. According to Google, its own fleet, which consists of 12 self-driving vehicles, has covered over 30,000 miles without a single accident. Sergey Brin, the founder of the internet company, thinks that self-driving will greatly improve drviers’ general well-being.

Could They Be Safer?

Autonomous vehicles can free roads of commuters, reduce congestion and make roads much safer, adds Mr Brin. He also believes that it will make transportation available for those that can’t drive, such as the disabled, the blind, the elderly and people that are intoxicated. As a result, self-driving vehicles will be safer than regular ones, he says. Mr Brin also predicts that autonomous vehicles will be available for the commercial market within 10 years. He adds that Google does not want to manufacturer these but would rather partner up with a company in the industry to develop the vehicles together.

What Are the Concerns?

Concerns have, however, been raised by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. It believes that the state of California is progressing far too quickly and that it needs to establish liability issues before opening up to self-driving. The group said that the legislation does not have any provisions that protect automakers that produced such vehicles.

Humans Can Easily Override

Computers and other technology are used to operate autonomous cars, but a human can easily override the system and take over the driving at any time. Nowadays, as drivers are getting more and more distracted by smartphones, autonomous vehicles could perhaps play a significant role in reducing collisions and fatalities caused by these actions.

Technology is Too New for Now

The California Department of Motor Vehicles must summarise its policies for Alex Padilla’s legislation by January 1, 2015. The current state law has no mention of these vehicles, as the technology is still too new. The policies will allow the use of autonomous vehicles, but a licensed back-up driver must always be present in each vehicle in case of an emergency. It is also designed to keep California ahead of the industry, as for years Silicon Valley companies and Stanford University have been experimenting with the technology.

Many Vehicles have Autonomous Functions Already

Earlier this year, Nevada became the first state in the USA to approve policies that companies are required to meet when testing a car without a driver. Audi, Ford, Volvo and BMW have been experimenting with this technology for years, and many carmakers have already introduced autonomous functions on their vehicles. These include self-parking, lane change warnings and cruise-control that speeds up or slows down the vehicle according to the flow of traffic.

Audi Q7

Audi Q7 pictured above.

Cruise control may be considered autonomous driving. In the Audi Q7, for example, the Adaptive cruise control (ACC) uses radar sensors to keep a certain distance between you and the vehicle in front. This also incorporates the Audi breaking guard that triggers a visual and acoustic alarm if there is the possibility of driving into the vehicle in front. This additional feature does cost over £1,000 as an added extra.


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