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Street Legal: Brown Signs Bill that Allows Public Testing of Driverless Cars

California's chief executive joined Google co-founder Sergey Brin for a test drive.

Self-driving cars could be in California's future after Governor Jerry Brown joined Google co-founder Sergey Brin Tuesday in Mountain View to sign into law driverless car regulation—and to take the Toyota Prius for a spin.

At the Googleplex, Brown signed into law SB 1298, which allows driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle contain a licensed driver who can take control if necessary.

“This self-driving car is another step forward in the long march of California not just leading the country, but the world,” Brown said. State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) authored the bill.

The law further instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicle technology no later than Jan. 1, 2015.

Before signing the new law, Brown said that fostering the development of self-driving cars was another example of California leading the rest of the world in expanding the common boundaries of imagination and risk. The state of Nevada adopted a similar law in May.

“It obviously seems like science fiction,” Brin said. “It really has the power to change people's lives.”

Google has been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development, and Brin said that self-driving cars could be on the road in less than 10 years. Throughout the ceremony Brin wore the new Google Glasses, another product in development at the Googleplex.

Brin said that self-driving cars have a system of sensors that will help safely propel the vehicles around the state's roadways, could reduce traffic congestion, decrease traffic-related fatalities, and increase mobility for the disabled and others who have limited access to public transportation.

Brin said the cars might even be good for urban-planning since they could work like a car-share and reduce the need for more parking. The vehicle could potentially drop someone and pick someone up at the same spot without parking.

According to Google, as of August 2012 the cars had completed more than 300,000 miles of testing under a wide range of traffic conditions and without a single accident under computer control.

Ironically, the single crash of a Google self-driving car happened in Mountain View behind the Costco on Rengstorff Street—while being driven by a human. The Toyota Prius hit another Prius, which hit a Honda Accord, which hit another Accord, which hit another Prius.

When asked who would be responsible if a self-driven car ran a red light, Brin had a straightforward answer.

“Self-driving cars don't run red lights,” he said.

—Additional reporting by Bay City News

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