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Driverless cars in Texas

You have perhaps heard the news that Google’s driverless car has been approved for street usage in California; specifically, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations for autonomous vehicles by Jan. 1, 2015. You may be wondering, with varying degrees of wonder or horror, when Texas might do the same. KUT takes a look.

While the prospect of seeing a car with no driver may be terrifying – especially if the car is converging with you at an intersection – robots have some advantages: they don’t get tired, drunk, or distracted by their phones, apply makeup, eat breakfast, or skim text messages. Robot drivers are always on-duty, fully-functioning, and paying attention. (Unless of course they have a software bug, or a system failure, or some wires shake loose.)

But when will the Google car come to Texas? The Texas Department of Transportation says they’re not aware of any plans to put robot drivers on Lone Star roads. The Texas Legislature would have to pass new laws allowing self-driving cars, and it meets next in January.

But the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the primary research center for Texas roadways, tells KUT News its researchers are visiting Google next week to learn more about the self-driving cars. And here in Austin, University of Texas research is focusing on creating not intelligent automobiles, but intelligent intersections that could leave the driving to your car.

Many other states are considering whether or not to put robots on the road.  Auto manufacturers, including BMW, Audi, Cadillac, and Volvo, are working on self-driving technologies. And Ford and Lexus have cars that can park themselves.

Say it with me now: “I for one welcome our robot automotive overlords”. I can’t wait to see the debate on this one in the Legislature. The lobbying effort alone will be worth watching. What do you think about this? Are you looking forward to the day when your car will drive you, or are you convinced this is just another step towards The Matrix? Leave a comment and let me know.

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3 Comments

  1. Tyson Sowell says:

    We already have this and it is much more efficient and cleaner than cars if you invest in it. It’s called mass transit.

  2. Buhallin says:

    My division at Southwest Research Institute has been working on self-driving vehicles for a while, although their current contracts (I departed a few years ago) are military-oriented, mostly because of the way SwRI work. So a decent local Texas angle too :)

    @Tyson: While I’d love to see a reasonable mass transit system, I think we probably have to admit that ship has sailed. Our cities aren’t built for it, our citizens don’t like it, and it’s just not going to happen. Everything we’re doing is tinkering around the edges, at best. Roadways and low-occupancy vehicles is what we’re stuck with, might as well try and make the best of it.

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