In Nevada's Near Future, Cars That Drive Themselves

Jun 23, 2011· 1 MIN READ
Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.
In the Vegas of the near future, the cars drive YOU. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nevada has never been a state to shy away from a gamble—especially one with a major financial upside.

It's not surprising, then, that the Silver State passed legislation yesterday that would allow their Department of Transportation to dream up appropriate rules and regulations governing the use of driverless cars.

Yes, driverless cars. As Stanford Law professor Ryan Calo noted, the legislation was the first of its kind:

“Although I am aware of no law that prohibits driverless cars, this appears to be the first law officially to sanction the technology. Specifically, the law provides that the Nevada Department of Transportation 'shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.' The law charges the Nevada DOT with setting safety and performance standards and requires it to designate areas where driverless cars may be tested.”

Although Calo acknowledged that defining these standards could take some time—in Japan rules for personal robots have been promised for years without results—the law has serious implications for proponents of the technology.

What kind of implications? Not only will you be able to send your car to pick up the kids, run errands, and drop off laundry, you'll also be able to get home safely while asleep, hurt, or inebriated.

"The cars have sensors and make decisions," said artificial-intelligence researcher Sebastian Thrun during a February 2011 TED conference.

Describing his work with Google's concept cars, Thrun, who lost his best friend to a car crash at 18, explained, "how ridiculous it was that humans were driving cars" given the technology available today.

"[After my friend's death] I decided I'd dedicate my life to saving one million people every year. Now I haven't succeeded yet, so this is just a progress report, but I need to tell you about driverless cars."

Apparently so does Nevada. Check out a clip of these potentially life-saving vehicles, in action, below: