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California State Senate approves self-driving car bill

A Google self-driving car.
A Google self-driving car.
Zack Sheppard/Flickr

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.

“Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California’s roads,” Padilla said in the L.A. Times. “For me this is a matter of safety.”

The bill is headed to the State Assembly next month for consideration, where it’s expected to pass.