Southern California environment news and trends

California State Senate approves self-driving car bill

Zack Sheppard/Flickr

A Google self-driving car.

Senate Bill 1298, instructing the California Highway Patrol to develop safety and performance standards for self-driving cars, passed the State Senate in a bipartisan and unanimous 37-0 vote.

California Senator Alex Padilla, who announced SB1298 this past March in Sacramento after arriving in a self-driven Toyota Prius, sees the passage as a positive step both for road safety and ultimately, the state’s economy. Google and Caltech are among the companies leading the design of the autonomous vehicles.

“Developing and deploying autonomous vehicles will not only save lives, it will create jobs,” he said to Wired, adding that, “California is uniquely positioned to be the global leader in this field.”

In addition to establishing the aforementioned performance guidelines, the bill allows the California Highway Patrol and DMV to recommend any additional safety requirements. The cars, which are controlled through radar, lasers and video cameras, would require a licensed driver behind the wheel at all times.

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Google designs self-driving cars for California

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It’s not exactly public transportation, but developers at Google, Inc. are designing technology that allows cars to drive themselves. Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla is so enamored with the plans that he let a Google-designed self-driving Toyota Prius give him a lift to Sacramento to hold a news conference about it.

As reported by the Environment News Service, the reason for the occasion was Padilla’s announcement of his legislation, Senate Bill 1298, which would instruct the California Highway Patrol to start “developing guidelines” around testing and ultimately unleashing self-driving vehicles on California roads.

The Google system utilizes a “laser range finder” on the car's roof, and no less than four radars mounted on the front and back bumpers. A camera keeps an eye on traffic lights.

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