Nevada gets behind the wheel of Google's driverless cars

US roads to be a test-bed for Google's autonomous vehicles

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Google is a step closer to bringing autonomous cars to the world's roads, as testing on US roads gets the green light.

If you are a little bit wary of cars that drive themselves – to be honest it's pretty low on our list of fears, way below sharks but slightly above the marmoset – then you may want to avoid the US state of Nevada for the foreseeable future.

This is because the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has approved a license application from Google to test autonomous vehicles on Nevada's roads.

There are a number of caveats to the licence. The first is a massive insurance premium – Google has had to fork out a bond of $1 million for the privilege of unleashing its cars on to actual roads.

The second is that there must be two people in the vehicle at all times – but even if these people are the world's best backseat drivers, they will still be ferried round by what is essentially a computer on wheels.

Seeing red

The driverless cars will be easy to spot. No, it won't be because of all the people jumping out of the way screaming that a runaway car that seems to be abiding by the speed limit and obeying all stop signals is after them.

They'll be easy to spot because of the bright red license plates that each car will legally have to have. That and the massive Google sign that states: self-driving car.

"The unique red plate will be easily recognised by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles," explained Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow said in a statement.

"When there comes a time that vehicle manufacturers market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate."

Let's not read too much into this but a $1 million insurance bond and a license plate that's pretty much red for danger isn't exactly filling us with hope that these driverless cars will be the safest things on Nevada's roads.

Google reckons driverless cars will be all the rage in 10 years though. But it also thought Google Wave would catch on, so don't bank on it.

Via Ars Technica