Officials in Nevada have issued the United State's first license to test self-driving cars on public streets.
They did this after test runs down the bustling Las Vegas Strip and other streets showed Google's test vehicle to be as safe - or safer - than human drivers.
The modified Toyota Prius, steered by sensors, radar and cameras, was issued a special red licence plate with an infinity symbol and the words Autonomous Car to differentiate it from regular vehicles. So far, Google has applied to license three test vehicles.
"They're designed to avoid distracted driving. 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"
- Bruce Breslow, Nevada official
"When there comes a time that vehicle manufacturers market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate," Nevada official Bruce Breslow said.
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.
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.
If there is a glitch, the human driver can override the autonomous car with a tap on the brake or a hand on the steering wheel.
"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."
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|William A. Cook|