Written by Sarah Rich, Government Technology
Nevada’s Legislative Commission of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved regulations allowing the testing of driverless — a.k.a. “autonomous” — vehicles to be driven on the state’s roads, according to an announcement on Feb. 15.
Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow said the state is the first in the U.S. to adopt this type of regulation requirements, and that an application package for companies that want to apply to test their autonomous vehicles in Nevada will be available on March 1.
The announcement was made just months after Nevada passed a law that requires the DMV to adopt regulations that would authorize the use of autonomous vehicles on the state’s highways. The law was passed in July 2011 and defines autonomous vehicles as “a motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.”
The law also required that the DMV establish a driver’s license endorsement requiring the operator of the autonomous vehicle to comply with Nevada’s traffic laws.
Breslow said the state is currently developing licensing procedures for companies that want to test their autonomous vehicle technology, and is requiring certification before an autonomous vehicle can be registered in the state.
“We require an autonomous vehicle that’s sold in the state to have a certificate of compliance certifying that the vehicle meets certain minimum safety requirements and provide a driver’s license endorsement for drivers to operate an autonomous vehicle in the state,” Breslow said.
In the future, residents will be able to apply to operate a self-driving vehicle in the state and those requirements were covered in the new regulations.
Breslow said drivers must prove to the DMV that they understand what the driverless vehicle technology’s capable of — and also what it’s not capable of. The DMV is also requiring applicants to provide proof of 10,000 miles of prior autonomous vehicle operation. The applicant will have to show summary statistics and a report of all of the prior autonomous testing the applicant would like the DMV to consider when processing an application.
In the state, autonomous test vehicles will be designated with a red license plate. Once the technology is ready for public use, a green license plate will be displayed on the vehicles registered with autonomous technology.
To create the new regulations in Nevada, the DMV partnered with Google, automobile manufacturers, testing professionals, insurance companies, universities and law enforcement agencies with the focus of testing driverless vehicles as a way to increase safety on roads.
“We see autonomous technology as the future of the automobile,” Breslow said. “Certainly within two to five years there will be autonomous, self-driving cars sold to people in our country. And we look at it as a safety system to avoid crashes, to avoid deaths.”
Companies like Google have tested driverless car technology in the past, but no company has officially announced that it will apply to test driverless car technology under Nevada’s new regulations.
According to an October 2010 official Google blog post, the company tested driverless cars around California and at that time, had logged more than 140,000 miles with autonomous vehicles.
“Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to ‘see’ other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead,” according to the Google blog post.