Governor Brown came to the Googleplex in Mountain View Tuesday afternoon to sign SB 1298, a bill that “creates a legal framework and safety standards for autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.”
To put that more plainly, Google — one of the largest and most innovative companies in the state, and now the fifth largest in the US – used its considerable wealth and charm to nudge the state legislature in Sacramento into letting it test its fleet of driverless cars without too much hassle.
The bill wasn’t entirely necessary. California doesn’t actually say a car has to have a driver, since autonomous autos weren’t even envisaged when the state passed its first motor laws in the early 20th century. (Google’s cars use a combination of sensors, radar and computer navigation; an emergency back-up human or two is always present in the vehicle.)
Google has been testing its vehicles on California roads since 2010. One trip back then took a Google vehicle from San Francisco to Santa Monica, via the famously beautiful and twisty Pacific Coast Highway, without anyone at the wheel.