California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that allows cars
to operate on San Diego roads,
minus the driver. California is now the third state in the country to allow driverless cars.
“Today, we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s
reality,” said Gov. Brown. He also characterized the state as one
of innovation. “This is the place where new ideas, risk, and imagination
come together to really build the future,” he said.
The law calls on the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft specific
regulations by 2015. It will also require a licensed driver behind the
wheel to intervene if needed, according to
Research groups that are working on driverless cars, including Google and
the U.S. military, are hopeful that self-driving cars may be safer than
traditional vehicles. Sebastian Thrun, the engineer heading Google’s
efforts, has stated that he hopes to prevent a million traffic fatalities.
While it is too soon to tell how driverless cars will impact road safety,
government safety regulators have found that technology can help deter
accidents. While it did not directly address driverless cars, a 2010 National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration study,
“Frequency of Target Crashes for IntelliDrive Safety Systems,” found that the addition of autonomous crash-avoidance systems to vehicles
could help prevent up to 81% of car crashes.