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Where’s My Flying Car?

Self-driving cars will be cruising Nevada roadways

By Rich_Maloof May 8, 2012 4:23PM

Photo: Courtesy of GoogleOrdinarily, we wouldn’t be writing about the Department of Motor Vehicles unless we had something new to say about the unique brand of torment we’ve all sustained at a local branch. But there’s actually something progressive going on at the DMV offices in Nevada. The state has just issued Google its first license to test three self-driving cars on public roadways.

Google has been lobbying hard to test their autonomous cars, and the Silver State, home to Las Vegas, is primed to roll the dice. As the Washington Post notes, the Vegas strip is just the kind of place where a robotic car could be a great idea, keeping everyone on the street a little safer as one less car swerves hard to the left as its driver gapes at the neon and nakedness and countless Godzilla-sized distractions.

According to Google and other makers of autonomous cars, safety and efficiency are the drivers of the technology. Given that human error is the cause of most car accidents, and given the world’s desperate need to be more fuel-efficient, automated cars like Google’s modified Prius could go a long way toward reducing injuries and air pollution.

With these acknowledgments, can we be forgiven for saying that it just doesn’t seem — what’s the right expression — fun? Sure, nothing says good times like a Prius, and several - shall we say geeky? - test-drivers have been delighted on a closed track as the tires squeal at a breathtaking 43 mph. But, jeez, is this what the future was supposed to look like? Isn’t it here yet? We figured we’d be in hovercrafts by now. We were counting on traveling to the mall by air and beaming our new gravity sneakers back home. Even this band name lodges a complaint.

Nonetheless, there’s a laundry list of significant potential benefits in a car that can (when laws allow) drop you off and park itself, drop the kids off at school, and transport passengers in various stages of incapacity, whether handicapped or just inebriated. Given, there other remarkable modes of transportation that can actually carry many passengers who don’t need to drive or control the vehicle; perhaps you’ve heard of such advances as “the bus” and “the train.” But autonomous cars hold great promise to save lives and Mother Earth when they become publicly available, which could be within three or five years. 

Tell us on Facebook: Would you try a self-driving car?

Photo: Eric Schmidt, Larry Page & Sergey Brin in a self-driving Google car; courtesy of Google.

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