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For Google's Self-Driving Cars, It's a Bumpy Trip


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A prototype Google driverless car.

Google plans to make about 100 of its prototype autonomous cars, whose speed will be capped at 25 mph.

Credit: Google/Reuters

Earlier this year Google signaled a change in the direction of its research into self-driving vehicles when it premiered a self-driving car that lacked a steering wheel, brake, and acceleration pedals. However, the future of the company's pursuit of fully autonomous vehicles is being put into question by new California rules that forbid such vehicles from driving on public roads.

The new rules, which go into effect Sept. 16, require vehicles to have manual steering capabilities so a driver can take "immediate control" of a vehicle if needed. Google says it will comply with the new rules and install temporary steering systems into its self-driving vehicles for tests on public roads, but still plans to pursue tests of fully autonomous vehicles without manual steering capabilities.

The new rules are a response to the ongoing debate about the liability implications of self-driving vehicles. As yet, it is unclear who would be held financially responsible if a self-driving vehicle crashed into another.

California's new testing rules also require companies involved in the testing of self-driving cars to carry at least $5 million in insurance, which can be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies. Google plans to have ordinary Californians testing self-driving cars on public roads in a couple of years.

From The Wall Street Journal
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