Nevada Bill Would Pave The Road To Autonomous Cars

Is it lawful for a car to drive itself? In the absence of any law to the contrary, it should well be. A new bill is working its way through the Nevada state legislature that would remove any doubt in that state. A.B. 511 directs the Nevada Department of Transportation to authorize autonomous vehicle testing in certain geographic areas of Nevada. Should vehicles meet Nevada DOT standards, they would be permitted to "operate on a highway." The bill defines not only autonomous vehicle, but artificial intelligence as well. AI is "the use of computers and related equipment to enable a machine to duplicate or mimic the behavior of human beings." An autonomous vehicle uses "artificial intelligence, sensors, and [GPS] coordinates to drive itself." To be clear: autonomous vehicles are not yet the law of the land in Nevada. This bill must pass through two committees and receive a hearing before it can be voted on and become law. Some preliminary thoughts on the bill in its present form follow.

1) It is wonderful that the state of Nevada is being so proactive. The potential safety, mobility, efficiency, and other benefits of autonomous vehicles are enormous. Creating a process by which to test and certify such vehicles represents an invaluable step forward. 2) That said, the bill's definition of autonomous vehicles is unclear, even circular. Autonomous driving exists on a spectrum. Many vehicles available today have autonomous features, while falling short of complete computer control. Surely the bill's authors do not intend to require that, for instance, today's self-parking Lexus LS 460L be tested and certified. 3) My personal guess is that it was John Markoff's October 2010 coverage of Google's autonomous vehicles that sparked this bill. I base this on the presence of that article on Nevada's website under Exhibits/Senate. One hopes A.B. 511 is the beginning of an important conversation about the promise and perils of autonomous driving in the United States. This Center, in conjunction with the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, has started a program dedicated specifically to the Legal Aspects of Autonomous Driving. We just hired a fellow. Look to this blog in the coming months for more on this topic. The bill itself is attached below. Thanks to Amanda Smith for her insights.

Comments

It's nice to see a similar technology to the Lexus LS 460 L in the 2012 Ford Focus. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-rxJkVzUxI Thanks to Moore's Law, this has the potential to be in every car, and makes partially and fully autonomous vehicles of the future one step closer to being a reality.

The Insurance industry needs to be proactive, and so do state, county and traffic engineers.

It's a good start, Nevada; let's see what happens next.

Is this what our tax dollars are funding? I can't be trusted to use a cell phone while driving, but it is okay for my car to be controlled by a robotic driver?

You people are TICKS. Bloodsuckers preying on American taxpayers. Those who actually PAY taxes. Like me.

The notion that GPS coordinates should in any way be involved with the PRIMARY guidance of Autonomous Vehicles is BOTH unnecessary AND completely counterproductive. The Autonomous Auto should react entirely AND EXCLUSIVELY to those cues which guide a human driver : Lane Lines, Traffic Signs and Advisories, Street Names, etc. . A total of ZERO infrastructure enhancements should be required, with the single exception that the above-mentioned items should be required to be STANDARD, legible and erected outside the visual obstruction of trees, shrubs and the like on the curbside : NO EXCUSES ! .

Our transportation system MUST NOT be subjected to the fragility of the overall GPS system ! ! ! . Robustness should be the Number 1 priority -- and THAT is gained by the redundancy of the existing guidance system based on simple, visual cues intended for the human motorist.

GPS as a secondary or backup, or "sanity check" is where the GPS function should be placed.
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First of all, the thought of cars that drive themselves blows my mind! Secondly, I am interested to see demonstrations of how these cars handle and how safe they actually are. Do you have any estimate on when we might be seeing these cars out and about?

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