California senate moves state closer to allowing self driving cars

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Legislation passed recently by the California state senate would establish guidelines under which self driving cars such as Google’s autonomous Prius could be tested on state owned roadways. Senate Bill 1298 was passed unanimously by a bipartisan 37 to 0 vote. In a press conference following the vote, the bill’s author expressed hope that self-driving cars might some day remove the possibility of human error from American roadways.  Self driving cars use computerized sensors and automated control features to safely operate themselves with minimal driver input. While similar legislation recently passed in Nevada would allow autonomous cars to be tested on public roadways, the California legislation would simply establish a set of guidelines by which the California Highway Patrol could determine whether to allow a self-driving vehicle to be tested. In order to test a self driving vehicle on California roadways, a car maker would need to ensure the car met all state and federal safety guidelines and that any testing procedures be cleared with both the California Highway Patrol and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. A licensed driver would need to be inside of the vehicle at all times in case of an emergency. Several other states including Hawaii, Arizona, Oklahoma and Florida have announced plans to consider similar legislation. Google supports this legislation, as do TechAmerica, the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, TechNet, and the Automobile Club of Southern California.