Senate Bill 1298, by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, targets "autonomous vehicles" that can navigate the roads without a human driver. Google has been working on one prototype and already taken to the streets for testing, including demonstrations here in Sacramento.
"We're excited about the potential of the new technology and its benefits, but it's not quite here yet," Padilla said.
While current state law does not specify that a car must be driven by a human, the bill requires a licensed motorist to occupy the driver's seat of an autonomous car on public roads until the technology meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requirements. It also allows the California Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles to make recommendations for safety or other requirements.
Padilla's office says similar legislation was approved in Nevada and is under consideration in Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma.
The bill, which was approved unanimously in the upper house, now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
PHOTO CREDIT: A Google car, 2010, Ramin Rahimian/The New York Times