Google gets first license for self-driving cars

Nevada issues license for Google to test autonomous cars on state roads, highways

The people of Nevada may be in for a surprise when they drive to the market or down the highway: they might encounter driverless cars.

Google self-driven car
Google's self-driving cars may soon appear on Nevada roads. The state's department of motor vehicles on Monday approved the nation's first autonomous vehicle license. The move came after officials rode in the car on the highway, on streets in Carson City neighborhoods and along the famous Las Vegas Strip, the Nevada DMV said in a statement. (Reuters / Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles/Handout)

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles on Monday issued Google the state's first license for self-driven cars. It was also first autonomous vehicle license ever issued in the United States, according to the Nevada DMV website.

"It's still a work in progress," said Tom Jacobs, a DMV spokesman, told the Las Vegas Sun. "The system regulates the brakes, accelerator and steering."

Last summer, Nevada lawmakers passed Bill 511, which authorized the state's DMV to begin formulating a set of rules of the road for autonomous, or self-driving vehicles.

It was the first step toward getting autonomous cars on the state's roadways. The experimental vehicles are designed to pilot themselves using artificial intelligence, computer sensors and GPS technology instead of human drivers.

Google could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Last month, Google executives went to Detroit looking for partners in the company's efforts to develop autonomous vehicles. Anthony Levandowski, head of Google's self-driving car project, told an audience there that the company would like to get such cars on the road within the next decade.

A Google spokesman told Computerworld last month that the company has been reaching out to automakers but is keeping its options open.

Nevada DMV officials have taken test drives in Google's autonomous vehicles, traveling on highways, city streets and even the famous Las Vegas strip.

However, Jacobs said Google isn't the only party talking with state officials about self-driving cars. According to the Sun, other companies have approached them about developing and testing autonomous cars. "Google has a lot of competition," Jacobs said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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