Google lobbies Nevada to allow self-driving cars

May 11th, 2011

A story in yesterday’s NYT, Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars, reports that Google has hired a Nevada lobbyist to promote two bills related to autonomous vehicles that are expected to be voted on this summer.

“Google hired David Goldwater, a lobbyist based in Las Vegas, to promote the two measures, which are expected to come to a vote before the Legislature’s session ends in June. One is an amendment to an electric-vehicle bill providing for the licensing and testing of autonomous vehicles, and the other is the exemption that would permit texting.”

Arguments the lobbyist offered included that “the autonomous technology would be safer than human drivers, offer more fuel-efficient cars and promote economic development.”

I’d add that the Google Bot has a clean driving record, exhibits an excellent sense of direction, will obey any laws inserted into a state’s robots.txt, and does not drink. However, the Google Bot’s current cars are all Toyotas and an Audis. Maybe the Nevada legislator should find a way to encourage it to support the US auto industry and buy some American cars.

I liked project leader Sebastian Thrun’s example of a potential benefit of autonomous vehicles.

“In frequent public statements, he has said robotic vehicles would increase energy efficiency while reducing road injuries and deaths. And he has called for sophisticated systems for car sharing that, he says, could cut the number of cars in the United States in half. “What if I could take out my phone and say, ‘Zipcar, come here,’ ” he asked an industry conference last year, “and a moment later the Zipcar came around the corner?””