John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Google’s Self-Driving Cars Now Legal in California

California governor Jerry Brown stopped by Google Tuesday to sign a bill that explicitly legalizes self-driving cars like those company co-founder Sergey Brin is so hot on.

The bill — SB 1298, sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-L.A.) — essentially establishes safety guidelines and performance standards for autonomous vehicles operating on California’s roads and highways, the first step in their public deployment. Self-driving cars can now be tested on public roadways — as long as a licensed human driver is seated at the wheel and able to take over in the event of a malfunction.

“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality,” Gov. Brown said. “This self-driving car is another step forward in this long march of California pioneering the future and leading not just the country, but the whole world.”

Fantastic. Soon we’ll be referring to Mountain View as Orbit City and Cosmo G. Spacely will be mayor. But what can we expect from this effort practically? Well, according to Brin, autonomous vehicles could vastly improve public safety. “These cars have the potential to avoid accidents. … They can save lives and reduce congestion. I expect that self-driving cars will be far safer than human driven cars.”

That may well prove to be the case, but we won’t know for another few years. The vetting process for self-driving cars — not to mention policy issues like liability and insurance — is likely to be quite complex. That said, Brin seems confident we’ll be seeing driverless vehicles soon.

“We hope to have employees testing it within the year,” he said. “And my hope is that people will more broadly use this technology within several years. … Now I don’t want to overpromise. We have fairly ambitious goals. But you can probably count on one hand the number of years until people can experience this.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald