Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2015

Currently: 71° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Sandoval first governor to take spin in driverless car with Google technology


AP Photo/Sandra Chereb

Gov. Brian Sandoval takes a spin in a driverless car Wednesday, July 20, 2011, in Carson City. Sandoval described the experience as “amazing”; he took the test run with a Google engineer and DMV Director Bruce Breslow. They started their trip at the DMV offices in Carson City and went north to Washoe Valley, where they turned around.

CARSON CITY -- Gov. Brian Sandoval got behind the wheel of a Toyota Prius on Wednesday - and left the driving to a computer for a test drive through the capital and a scenic valley.

Sandoval became the first governor in the nation to test drive the robot-car technology Google Inc. is testing in Nevada.

"All of it is amazing," Sandoval said after the gas-electric hybrid - with a spinning gizmo on its roof - pulled into a parking space in front of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. "It's another compliment to American engineering."

The gizmo is a laser range finder. The cars are also equipped with radar, sensors and computers that allow the vehicles to drive themselves.

Nevada lawmakers approved a bill this year allowing the cars on Nevada roadways. Another bill exempts operators of robotic vehicles from a texting-while-driving ban that takes effect Jan. 1.

"I think it's important for Nevada to be first on this," Sandoval said. "This is going to be part of the future, and Nevada has always been a very progressive state."

Sandoval, with Google engineer Chris Urmson riding shotgun and DMV Director Bruce Breslow in the back seat, drove from the DMV offices to the middle of Washoe Valley about 10 miles north before turning around.

The governor took manual control of the car for a while but was amazed at its maneuverings while on autopilot.

"It accounts for all the safety issues," Sandoval said. "It even tells you when a crosswalk is coming up."

The technology is not yet available commercially, and the DMV is in the process of developing regulations for licensing the cars, said DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs, who got to take a spin in the driverless auto earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, Google officials, who did not want to speak with reporters, have been mapping the state's roadways.

If the car enters an area that hasn't been mapped, Jacobs said a female voice will tell the operator, "Please drive."

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 5 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. When Sandoval is behind the wheel, any car would be driverless.

  2. As long as these lazy cars for lazy drivers stay right except to pass, I'm fine with them. They will follow the law to the letter and will be easy to get around.

  3. Good thing is these cars can not drink and drive and kill someone.

    No more DUI in this state if enough people step up and use them.

    The future is on the way. Some of you better get ready for it now that you have learned to post silly things on the Internet in the darkness of your room. ;-)

  4. I know what's wrong with that car . It has a loose nut behind the wheel

  5. Looking at the bright side of having such an innovative vehicle, it will enable seniors who might be in jeopardy of losing their keys, another avenue; and for the habitual DUI drivers who must work, it should be mandated, and for those with really awful driving records or habits, this will provide them wheels (restricted by court or parents). Our society demands mobility, as this type of vehicle is a great option on the horizon!