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August 2, 2015

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Nevada issues Google first license for self-driving car

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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.

Click to enlarge photo

Google's Toyota Prius Autonomous Vehicle

CARSON CITY — Nevadans will soon see driverless cars being tested on streets and highways.

Google received the first license Monday from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to test the autonomous vehicles. It is believed to be the first such license issued in the country.

The 2011 Legislature passed the first law in the nation to permit testing of driverless cars. But state regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger’s seat during tests.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Tom Jacobs, a DMV spokesman. “The system regulates the brakes, accelerator and steering.”

Google has equipped a test fleet of at least eight vehicles — six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT and a Lexus RX450h.

License plates issued for driverless cars will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol on the left side.

“I feel using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the 'car of the future,'” DMV Director Bruce Breslow said.

DMV officials have been in the vehicles during demonstrations on the Las Vegas Strip and in Carson City. There have been other demonstrations of the technology on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and around Lake Tahoe.

The system permits a human driver to take control by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel.

Google says it hopes to market the technology to auto manufacturers. It combines artificial intelligence software, a global positioning system and an array of sensors to navigate its way through traffic.

The DMV says other companies have indicated their desire to test and develop autonomous technology. “Google has a lot of competition,” Jacobs said.

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