Nevada approves regulations for self-driving cars

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Nevada is becoming the first US state to approve and regulate rules for self-driving cars on its roadways. Nevada's Legislative Commission approved regulations on Wednesday that will allow for the testing of autonomous vehicles, with a red license plate, on the streets of Las Vegas and other cities. Nevada state was originally lobbied by Google last year to introduce the regulations, although it's not clear why the search giant is throwing money at automated cars throughout Nevada instead of its home state of California. Nevertheless, Nevada has partnered with Google, insurance companies, universities, automobile manufacturers, and law enforcement to create the regulations that will introduce the future of automobiles.

Google originally unveiled its self-driving cars in 2010, after testing them over 140,000 miles on the roads of California. The cars use video cameras, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to navigate roads, with the aim of reducing road traffic accidents. BMW, Audi, and Toyota are also working on their own computer-controlled driving systems, with Alan Taub, vice president of research and development for General Motors, predicting the technology will be a standard feature by 2020. Once the cars are tested and ready for the general public, Nevada will issue green license plates to identify vehicles equipped with autonomous technology.

Update: We spent some time looking through the full list of regulations for testing and operating an autonomous vehicle and found a few amongst the legalese that seemed noteworthy. For starters, operators of autonomous vehicles must apply for and be issued a certificate of compliance, as well as obtain a specific endorsement on his or her standard driver's license and specific required insurance coverage. Fortunately, those who aren't legally able to drive autonomous vehicles are free to drive them as standard vehicles, should the need arise. And if you're thinking of taking a solo drive, forget about it — autonomous cars are required to have two passengers, although only one needs to have the autonomous vehicle certification (the other just needs a standard license). Your self-driving car won't be able to drive you just anywhere, either; there are tightly defined areas in which these vehicles can be tested.

Not only do drivers need to be certified, but vehicles do as well — vehicles must store crash data, have systems in place to alert drivers to potential failure of the automatic systems, and have easily accesible override capabilities so drivers can resume control. If the vehicle is failing, the driver is required to take over, or else the vehicle will just come to a stop. If you're interested in opening a business for testing these vehicles, it won't come cheap — you'll need to have a $1 million bond to go along with your application. If you're interested in reading more, the full 26 pages of regulation can be found here, though note that we've had occasional difficulties connecting to the page hosting the PDF file.

Thanks, Clay Johnson; Adi Robertson and Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.

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