California is following Nevada in adopting driverless cars to be used in the state in the next few years. The California legislature has just passed a bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval or veto. If it gets approved, the state’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles has until January 2015 to determine standards for cars operating on self-driving technologies. SB 1298 from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, was passed unanimously by the Senate the last week of August following the Assembly’s 74–2 approval the day before.
Google and Stanford University will continue to play a critical role in the development and testing of driverless cars, which are mainly being done on modified versions of the Toyota Prius. Safety is the key issue, with 99% of all traffic and fatal accidents being attributed to some form of human error or imperfection. Supporters of driverless cars also talk about the fuel efficiency and traffic gridlock reduction benefits that driverless cars would bring to jam-packed highways.
Automakers would have to get their driverless cars approved by the state, and then licensed drivers would apply to become backup operators of the approved autonomous cars. Drivers will still need to sit behind the wheel, in case their driving skills are needed. Ford, Audi, BMW, and other automakers are working to manufacture the world’s first “autonomous” vehicles for consumers. It’s expected to take at least five years for these cars to hit the market.