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Who Gets The Ticket If Google's Self-Driving Car Runs A Red Light?

Paresh Dave |
September 25, 2012 | 1:25 p.m. PDT

One of the self-driving cars near Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (MarkDoliner/Flickr)
One of the self-driving cars near Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (MarkDoliner/Flickr)
Capping a successful lobbying campaign by technology giant Google, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that welcomes onto California roads cars with a computer controlling the steering, braking and accelerating.

"Being able to imagine what isn't and bringing it to reality," Brown said was the essence of Google.

California joins Nevada as the only other state to explicitly allow self-driving cars. California's law requires people and companies wanting to test out driverless cars to get permission from the Department of Motor Vehicles first. Someone also must be present in the car to keep a watchful eye and take over if something goes wrong with the computer.

"Yah, we got rules and taxes and little things that pop up," Brown said of California. "But this self-driving car is another step in the long march of California pioneering....This is the most creative state."

A system of cameras, lasers and GPS keeps the car on track in models Google has tested out in California and Nevada.

"It obviously seems the stuff of science fiction," Google co-founder Sergey Brin said while wearing Google Glasses. "But it really has the power to change people's lives."

He said he expects self-driving cars to be far safer than regular cars.

Asked by a reporter what would happen if the car runs a red light and is caught on camera without a driver, Brin said, drawing laughs, "The self-driving car doesn't run red lights."

Besides Google, car insurance providers also supported the measure. Car companies and research institutes are pursuing their own self-driving cars as well. At least one group predicts three in four cars will be driverless by 2040. The efficiency could mean more cars could squeeze onto existing roadways without the need for expanding freeways.

Brin wouldn't specify when the self-driving cars would become available to regular consumers, but he said you could count the years on one hand and that the Google team had "ambitious targets."

Google co-founder Sergey Brin at Tuesday's press event.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin at Tuesday's press event.

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