updated 07:41 pm EDT, Tue September 25, 2012
Governor Brown signs bill, calls it 'science fiction'
California governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law legislation establishing safety and performance regulations for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways. The Associated Press reports and Google confirms that the governor signed SB1298 in a ceremony at Google's Mountain View headquarters. Speaking at the bill signing, Governor Brown said the emergence of autonomous cars meant that "today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality."
Senate Bill 1298 -- authored by California State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) -- allows for driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes. Each vehicle must have a fully licensed and bonded operator in the driver seat to take over control should that be necessary.
The bill also instructs California's Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations governing the licensing, bonding, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles. The DMV is instructed to have the new regulations as soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2015.
Autonomous cars have been inching toward legality in California for some time. In late August, the bill Governor Brown signed passed both houses of California's legislature. Today's signing makes California the second state after Nevada to allow autonomous vehicles on its roads. Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Oklahoma are considering similar legislation.