Forget it, Las Vegas Strip. Move over Area 51. Perhaps cruising up the Extraterrestrial Highway will be Nevada’s latest tourist attraction, Google auto-driving cars sporting new autonomous vehicle license plates.
Google has been working to get official approval to test its self-driving cars in several US states. They’ve operated in California, where so far they’ve been deemed legal by existing laws. But Nevada just became the first state to give official sanction to testing such vehicles.
Approval To Test, Supervision Still Required
This doesn’t mean that the cars will be out there driving themselves without controlled supervision by an actual driver. As this AP story notes, Nevada requires there be two operators in the car, one behind the wheel.
In California, the cars have routinely run with only one driver behind the wheel. Recently, the driver was even allowed to be in the passenger side, as Steve Mahas — who is blind — was behind the wheel as the car’s first official non-Google “driver.”
So what do Nevada’s new regulations allow? They seem to give official sanction to further testing, plus something for Nevada crow about.
The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles posted the news over the weekend, complete with a picture of one of the three Google cars that Google plans to test sporting the new plate:
The DMV also posted images of what a human sees, as the car drives itself up the Las Vegas Strip:
Also posted, an image of what the car sees:
Nevada is hoping that more companies will begin testing cars in the state, providing more information about its new regulations and how to apply here. It also foresees those new plates someday changing to a green color, which would represent autonomous vehicles being used by the general public, rather than in testing. From the state’s news release:
“I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the ‘car of the future.’” Department Director Bruce Breslow said. “The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles. When there comes a time that vehicle manufactures market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate.
That statement explains the red color, the infinity symbol but not the “AU” initials rather than “AV” for “autonomous vehicle.” My best guess is that AU stands for the first two letters in “autonomous.”
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