Nevada Green-Lights Self-Driving Cars, Assigns Red Plates

February 17, 2012
Stanford/Audi TTS autonomous Pikes Peak car, aka 'Shelley'

Stanford/Audi TTS autonomous Pikes Peak car, aka 'Shelley'

Take a drive down the Las Vegas strip, and there are plenty of things to catch your eye -- flashing lights, brightly colored fountains, pirates. But the most interesting sight of all may be a simple red license plate, because in the not-too-distant future, that'll mean that the car in front of you has no driver.

You might recall that last summer, Google lobbied the Nevada legislature to allow autonomous cars on public roads. Elected officials gave the measure a thumbs-up, but that was just the first step down the path to a state full of self-driving vehicles.

This week, a Nevada legislative commission approved a series of regulations to govern these new autonomous vehicles. The rules have been vetted by vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement agencies, and perhaps most importantly, insurance companies. 

The commission didn't release details about the new regs -- presumably, it's going to wait until it's crossed the Is and dotted the Ts on the licensing procedures that automakers like Audi and companies like Google must follow before sliding into the passenger's seat, clipboard in hand.

The one bit of info that did leak out, though, is that autonomous cars will have red license plates. That's probably meant to warn other drivers that there's no one behind the wheel of autonomous cars.

However, while we're sure that there will be accidents involving these self-driving rides, we should point out that in Google's quest to log 1,000,000 miles in its autonomous cars, there's only been one fender-bender -- and that happened when a human being was in control of the vehicle. So really: who should be afraid of whom?

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