Google's self-driving Toyota Prius car had been traveling the on streets of California for testing -- as up until now, there was no official licensing process to allows the cars legally driven for non-test purposes.
Department of Motor Vehicles officials said Monday that they've issued Google the nation's first license to test self-driving cars on public streets, after conducting demonstrations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City that show the car is as safe - or perhaps safer - than a human.
Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow said, "It gets honked at more often because it's being safe." Explains the self-driving vehicle technology he said, "It works like auto-pilot to guide a car - in this case a modified Prius - with little or no intervention from a human operator. Laser radar mounted on the roof and in the grill detects pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, creating a virtual buffer zone around the obstacles that the car then avoids. While some envision the robotic car dropping off its operator at the front of the mall and hunting for a parking spot on its own," Breslow said not so fast.
"They're designed to avoid distracted driving," Breslow said. "When you're on the Strip and there's a huge truck with a three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box."
The Nevada's regulations require two people in the test cars at all times. "One person is behind the wheel, while the other person monitors a computer screen that shows the car's planned route and keeps tabs on roadway hazards and traffic lights," he said.
So far, Google's applied to license three test vehicles. Breslow said the cars will display red plates and an infinity symbol to represent their status as vehicles of the future.
Once they're ready for the market - something Breslow guesses could come in three to five years - the plates will be green.