Google Gets a Driver's License

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Google Gets a Driver's License

Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt show off one of Google's driverless cars.

Courtesy Google

Getting your driver's license can be an experience filled with anxiety, excitement and exhilaration if you're human. But what if you're a robotic car?

On Sept. 25, 2012, California governor Jerry Brown passed a law allowing test trials of autonomous cars on California roads. Does that mean it's legal to buy a robot car, hop in the back seat and tell your automaton chauffeur to drop you off on Hollywood and Vine? Not quite.

The law requires that a licensed driver be behind the wheel of the car. It's a safety measure -- should a system fail, the driver could take control of the vehicle and get it off the road safely. The law applies to any autonomous vehicle, but Google inspired the legislation.

For the past few years, Google has been developing technology that allows cars to navigate autonomously over roads and highways. Google modified cars by adding video cameras, laser rangefinders, GPS receivers, a database filled with maps and a variety of sensors. Taking control of one of these cars manually is a breeze -- just move the steering wheel a bit or tap on the brakes and you're the one driving the car.

We're probably still years away from a future in which everyone sits back while the vehicles do all the work. But this piece of legislation gets us a little closer to that dream.

Honorable Mention: In 2012, Google announced a new line of tablets under the Nexus name. The tablets run on Google's mobile operating system called Android. Google also announced the Nexus Q, a home entertainment device.

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