By on February 18, 2012

Last year, Nevada was the first state to legalize driverless cars – in a way. The law stipulated that Nevada’s Department of Transportation “shall adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles on highways within the State of Nevada.” Probably hoping that this would take a while. The Department worked overtime and finished the regulations in eight months. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles announces:

“In a step that puts Nevada first in the nation while paving the way for unique economic opportunity, the Legislative Commission today approved regulations allowing for the operation of self-driving vehicles on the state’s roadways.

It still is a while away until cars will roam Nevada with nobody on the wheel. The department is currently developing licensing procedures for companies that want to test their self-driving vehicles in Nevada. Then, the cars must be tested and approved. Only then, they may drive around on their own.

One thing the DMV knows for sure: The color of the license plate of those autonomous vehicles. While the cars are tested, the plate will be red. Once approved, the plate will be green. General Motors does not think that we will see many green license plates before 2020.

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33 Comments on “Nevada Ready For Self-Driving Cars. Well, Not Quite...”


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    All this autonomous vehicle stuff is much ado about nothing, it will never catch on, it’s not practical, it’s not safe, I for one could never relax while some “robot” is driving me around, that is why we havemass transit, folks!

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      It is much ado about everything.

      Not sure where you live, but in my neck of the woods the freeways are packed, there is no more ROW available to add lanes, without spending billions of dollars buying improved property and demolishing.

      In town driving is packed.

      Let’s face it, the golden age of automobiling has probably already passed. Most kids today coming up on the age of getting a driver’s license don’t really want one. They are more interested in playing grand theft auto on the XBOX than driving an actual vehicle.

      The technology is not here yet, but at the rate that tech has advanced in just the last ten years, the reality of a self driving vehicle is coming upon us very fast.

      I for one, look forward to a self driving vehicle. However, that may be because I’ve owned my current car for ten years, and am tired of driving IT.

      Come August this year, I’m getting something much nicer. Human controlled.

    • 0 avatar
      fisher72

      Not practical? I would argue the exact opposite.

      Then again people still do not like anti-lock brakes and think they can brake better without it.

      I have a 120 mile round trip commute to a mine that is absolute drivel. There will never ever be public transportation to it. I want this now. 99% of my drive in my supercharged car is just going with traffic or 6 mph over the limit.

      The LIDAR is so good, that it can sense and track the vehicle IN FRONT of the 18 wheeler in front of the autonomous car. Therefore reacting to things that a human cannot even do.

      When we drive, all we do is a bunch of yes/no questions, a computer can do that. Brake now? Brake Harder? Go faster? Turn more? Brake less?

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      The money is not in the self-driving cars (except for insurance companies) but in self-driving tractor trucks. Any bets on whether Wal-Mart would jump on the train to cutting costs by eliminating human truck drivers and using robot or remotely piloted trucks?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I’m really looking forward to this. Set the dial for your destination and then go to sleep, read, whatever. Like taking a train or bus except you can leave on exactly your own schedule (and no arriving early at the station or airport to get frisked and wait). Trains aren’t even much faster than cars in the US (except the Acela, maybe) and your autonomous car will be non-stop except for fuel.

    I never drive overnight, because I think it’s unsafe for ME to drive overnight but a car that pilots itself overnight would give me much more flexibility in my driving vacations.

    We may also see some significant improvement in fuel economy if the autonomous vehicles can draft on each other. Electronic reflexes should make that perfectly safe.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I too can’t wait. There is nothing I love more than driving on windy back roads, but I would be perfectly happy to leave the Interstate pounding to the car. And there would be HUGE fuel economy gains from drafting, and with computers in control there is no reason to have more than a couple inches between cars. At MUCH higher speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Ok, let’s assume it’s 6am, at sunrise, and you’re cruising between Kittery and Portland on 95. Somewhere along the way, there’s a moose standing in the breakdown lane. A simplistic radar based system is going to think that maybe its a construction sign left by a work crew and will think nothing about it and keep moving along. Unfortunately, the moose gets spooked and runs into your lane when your about 10 feet away.

      Someday autonomous vehicle systems will be able to identify a moose and understand it’s behavior, but the technology really isn’t there yet. Like I always tell people, by the time we create a reliable autonomous vehicle, the same technology will have eliminated your job and you really won’t need to drive anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Having been in that exact situation, I can tell you that at 75mph I did NOT see the moose until it was WAY too late to do anything but nail the brakes, move over, and hope the stupid thing stayed put. Which thankfully it did. Was between Auburn and New Gloucester though.

        If an autonomous car can recognize a pedestrian (and it has to be able to), it can recognize a moose. I would much rather have the computer taking evasive action than my half-awake self at 6am.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I’ve never experienced a moose on the shoulder, but do they commonly jump out in front of car moving down the freeway at 65 MPH only 10′ away?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Dynasty

        EMPHATICALLY YES!

        Moose are about the dumbest creatures you will ever encounter. Particularly because unless old or sick, they have no natural enemies. But they are still easily spooked, and can and will decide to go charging off in whatever direction strikes their fancy at any moment.

        They are incredibly dangerous. Imagine hitting a 1500lb cow with a car – bad enough, right? Now imagine hitting that cow on stilts – the body of the thing comes right through the windshield and comprehensively re-arranges you.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “I’ve never experienced a moose on the shoulder,”

        It actually happened – except it occurred in the White Mountains of NH. I was able to stop at 50 mph plus and we had a bit of a standoff, then he decided to trot up the road a bit till he found his trail, and then left.

        Some autonomous vehicle systems wouldn’t have reacted because he was stationary. They understand object movement, but not object behavior. Because he was hemmed in by a rock wall, he’d have likely bolted across the road when spooked by the car. I’ve had other wildlife near collisions that some systems would have recognized, but there is the occasional situation where it would have gone undetected.

        Many of these systems only react when there is a moving object. They’re not sophisticated enough to identify an object that might have a sudden reaction when there is a close encounter with a vehicle.

        The problem with the roads we drive is that there are so many more potential collision situations that the computational power needed to assess the various threats (that will fit in a car) really isn’t there yet. A vehicle has to determine how many objects exist in front of it, then has to determine what those objects in front of it are, then do a threat assessment on each of the hundreds of objects it might have in front of it. That’s a lot of code to crunch. I’m looking for a silver bullet (and one heck of a patent if I find it), but I’m not hopeful.

        I’m co-developer of a couple of aviation collision avoidance systems currently deployed including one aviation ground collision avoidance (other planes and vehicles on the ground at airports) so I have a good grasp of the problems – better than many in the field now.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Yeah. I mean, it’s not like there’s any method an autonomous car could use to tell the difference between a road sign at ambient temperature, and an animal radiating heat. Oh, wait.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        You speak as if this is a problem without a solution. Kind of selling-short all the creatives and technicals out there that will resolve this issue one day.

  • avatar
    John M

    People talk about how great mass transit is until you are stuck waiting for the bus out in the snow, or you have to sit next to the crazy stinky guy. In rush hour traffic, I would much rather spend the time in my own self-driving pod where I can relax, listen to radio, set cabin temperature where I want it, turn on the seat massage function, work on computer, etc. With the computer control during rush hour, the vehicle can be spaced a few inches from each other. It would be better for environment since the cars could draft each other. With sorted out electronics & software, the roads would be safer than all the clowns that I see every day, who are too busy texting anyway to drive. No one “enjoys” being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic either.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    This will never work until a state reforms its product liability laws.

    The half-blind 75 year old who turns left in front of and cripples a motorcyclist will currently be given as $100 fine with a modest insurance hike. The Google-DriveMyCar-App will get sodomized with a 7 figure judgment if their system does anything remotely similar.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Brisbane

      I think you’re right. Assuming that the autonomous system is better at avoiding the moose than a human driver so 9 times out of ten the human driver hits the moose and the autonomous car does not. Sounds good but who is responsible for that tenth accident? Odds on it’ll be a huge action against the manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      As a corporation can’t greive for the consequence of such an accident, I’d say the difference in liability will prophylacticly encourage manufacturers not to cut corners in either design or manufacture.

  • avatar
    redliner

    @mcs

    I beg to differ. Google engineers gave a press conference about about their autonomous cars, and one of the things they touched on was the techniques they use to determine the difference between a pedestrian (which may randomly walk out in front of the car) and a lamp post/pole/sign.

    There are a couple of videos of the conf floating around on youtube.

    If a moose where to jump in front of a car, would you be better off in the hands of a computer that can calculate all the possible brake steering combinations and their likely outcomes, along with checking blind spots, pre-tensing seat belts, firming up the suspension, and preparing for evasive action, all in a fraction of a second, or in the hands of your average driver, which will probably panic, hit the brakes, and fixate on the moose.

    Ok, new scenario: Your driving down the highway at night through heavy fog. If you were driving yourself, you would have to drive very slowly, perhaps 25 or 30 mph due o the reduced sight distance. However, your fancy autonomous car with it’s radar/lidar/camera/ultrasonic/infrared sensor combo is capable of safely driving much faster because many of those sensors are not affected by fog. It can see BETTER tan you can.

    With connected cars, cars ahead could communicate dangerous situations like slippery roads, or derbies on the highway to the cars behind them, and the computer could use that info to determine safe travel lane/speed/distance/etc.

    There is a long way to go, but it is definitely possible.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Cyberdyne Systems, a division of Omni Consumer Products, is proud to introduce the all-new 2060 HAL9000 Skynet Edition! Complete with the Master Control Program and SPD-13 protocol safeguards, it’s the safest fully autonomous vehicle ever created.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    That Cyberdyne Systems model was actually better on a motorcycle than a car! You people can have your autonomous vehicle, I will continue driving myself, thanks, but no thanks. Anyway, has anyone even consider the costs involved with this undertaking, we can’t even afford NASA anymore!

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I think developing the technology will be relatively easy. The biggest challenges in the development of the autonomous personal car will be changing support systems, infrastructure and laws to adapt to autonomous vehicles.

    Overall the potential is incredible. Our current system is full of slack and unknowns. Imagine driving as it is today, then take out human reaction time. *Now consider that every car knows exactly where every other car is going* That is going to be the fundamental change that really turns driving as we know it on its head. Massive time savings and increase in road capacity utilization.

  • avatar
    naterator

    Only because I can’t let it go (and I’m shocked no one else said it already):

    A Moose once bit my sister …

    No realli! She was Karving her initials on the moose with the sharpened end of an interspace toothbrush given her by…

    [music winding down]

    We apologise for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible have been sacked.

    [music winding up]

    Mind you, moose bites kan be pretty nasti…

    [music winding down again]

    We apologise again for the fault in the subtitles. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked, have been sacked.

    I think this is where the “Wonder-Lama” bit starts.

  • avatar
    ixim

    The present system is pretty good, BUT, thanks to the vagaries of road conditions, etc.; compounded by unavoidable human error, accidents happen. Any automated system, no matter its level of “perfection” will have accidents. The technology WILL be developed, demonstrated, and implemented SOMEWHERE for reasons of – choose as many as you like: safety, fuel savings; time savings; crime prevention/solving through cyber-surveillkance, etc. Those of us who enjoy operating our own motor vehicles will have some adapting to do.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      You will drive a vehicle that will broadcast to the others that it is under the control of carbon-based engram-equipped multitronic circuits. If an accident happens, your atty will state that “the autocar simply got in the way.”

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    This will never happen because it will destroy the airlines and gut the FAA. They will use all their power to stop it while the lawyers hold on to their ability to leech off of every mistake.

    The only hope is an alliance between the UAW and AARP only the AARP doesn’t listen to its members’ wishes and the UAW guys are too backwards to see that this is one fight that GM and Ford can actually win.

    • 0 avatar
      fisher72

      Also what would the police departments do for revenue if people stopped getting tickets? Your car would already know the traffic/weather delays to get to work and text/alert you that you need to leave for work at time X:XX, and keep bothering you like a count down.

  • avatar
    multicam

    Am I the only person who thought he said “Asian people” at 0:30? Hahaha.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    For those who get hit by RoboCars, it will make perfect sense for the victims to sue the RoboCar software company.

    It might even behoove the owner of the RoboCar to sue the “driver”, since it wasn’t him. (“Hey, I was just minding my own business, taking a nap in the back seat when my…er, THAT car hit someone!”)

    I look forward to this. With an automated car, there will always be somebody to sue. Uninsured motorists will be a thing of a past; we can all just file a claim against Google, instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Oogle will just retaliate by releasing the lurid details of the plaintiff’s search history; the data collection for this begins March 1st. ;) but maybe not!


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