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California Gov. Jerry Brown signs driverless car law

This news story was published on September 26, 2012.
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By Mike Rosenberg

San Jose Mercury News


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — With Google co-founder Sergey Brin by his side, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill to allow California’s first driverless cars to hit the road.

The law is the first step toward a possible network of robot cars that would allow drivers to sit behind the wheel and let their vehicle’s computer system do all the work. Supporters envision these space-age vehicles as the best way to reduce fatal accidents and alleviate traffic congestion.

Brown signed the bill into law at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, fitting since the search giant pushed the legislation following its high-profile launch of its robot Prius.

Top automakers like Ford, companies like Google and universities like Stanford are working on “autonomous” cars that can drive themselves. But they’re not ready to offer them publicly for at least a few years.

The bill requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to set up regulations for driverless cars by the start of 2015. Not only would each autonomous car need to be approved for the road, but drivers would need to obtain a separate permit to sit behind the wheel of a driverless car — and be ready to take control of the vehicle if its computer crashes.

The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill, SB 1298 by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, at the end of August.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers opposed the law because of concerns over whether automakers would be held legally liable for cars that are made autonomous. Consumer groups also raised security concerns because the computers would be tracking the driverless cars’ every movement.

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