Google's computer-controlled robot cars pass driving test in Nevada
GOOGLE’S autonomous cars have passed their first driving test in the US state of Nevada, which included a trip along the famous Las Vegas Strip.
The desert state is the first to grant the vehicles a licence to use public roads.
They are controlled by computers processing a combination of mapping data, radar, laser sensors and video feeds.
Officials from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles rode in the cars "along freeways, state highways and neighborhoods both in Carson City and the busy Las Vegas Strip", they said in a statement.
It comes after Nevada passed laws to create a new type of licence for autonomous vehicles last year, which came into effect on 1 March.
The autonomous cars, based on Toyota Prius hybrid hatchbacks, will now be allowed on public roads for further development and testing, carrying a distinctive red licence plate with an infinity symbol on the left side.
“I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the ‘car of the future',” Nevada DMV director Bruce Breslow said.
“The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles."
Google is one of several firms racing to develop cars able to drive themselves. It is competing with car manufacturers as well as military firms to develop the technology. The web giant's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has argued that the fact that current vehicles rely on human drivers is a "bug".
"It's amazing to me that we let humans drive cars," he said in 2010 as Google ramped up its research,in partnetship with Stanford University.
As well as Nevada, Google's home state of California is considering laws to allow autonomous cars on its roads.
"The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error," California state Senator Alex Padilla said in March when he introduced autonomous car legislation.
"Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely."