Nevada Starts Work On Road To Self Driving Cars

The state of Nevada passed a bill last week that will require its state Department of Motor Vehicles to start developing the unique rules and law necessary to regulate the use of autonomous vehicles on state roadways.

The specific section of law, Section 8, will govern autonomous vehicles and will take effect on March 1, 2012.

Google started testing self driving cars last year. Volkswagon has also been testing it’s TAP (Temporary Auto Pilot) car with what they describe as “production-ready” components.

Nevada defines “autonomous vehicle” as a motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.

Self-driving cars will not simply be instantly “street legal” thanks to this law. This law actually gives the Nevada DMV the task of coming up with the laws and regulations that will certainly be necessary to manage ownership and operation of autonomous vehicles. As the first state to get this far, Nevada can expect its progress to serve as an example for other states going forward.

Some of the necessary regulations are more obvious than others. For example, where will DMV stand on the traditional DMV eye chart / vision test for a legally blind person who can now operate an autonomous vehicle operated by sound queues? What will the insurance requirements be for an autonomous vehicle which largely takes human error out of the equation? Will a speeding violation be considered a moving violation worthy of an insurance increase or a mere equipment violation? In fact, wouldn’t the vast majority of moving violations arguably be equipment failure more than anything else?

If these vehicles do become a regular part of our driving lives at some point in the future, consider this Nevada law an important milestone on the road to that future.

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