California's governor Jerry Brown says that today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality. That's because he just signed a bill that makes driverless cars legal throughout the state. Brown symbolically signed the bill at Google headquarters in Mountain View.
Google has been pioneering the idea of cars that can drive themselves, and first gained permission to use them on the road in Nevada early this year.
The software within the car uses all sorts of tools, ranging from a set of short-range radar sensors and video cameras to a persistent Internet connection that constantly scans Google Maps for road and traffic updates.
While obviously it is still a highly focused and experimental project, it could be the beginning of a ripple effect on the entire automotive industry.
Of course, Google hasn't really put the car through its full paces just yet. When it goes for a test drive, the car always has trained employees inside, who are able to override the autopilot mechanism at a moment's notice.
Interestingly enough, though, the only time that the driverless car has been in an accident is when it was being driven in manual override mode. It has never shown any safety problems when in its driverless mode.
Per the newly passed law, California's Department of Motor Vehicles will need to come up with specific regulations for driverless cars by 2015.