Google's self-driving car made the rounds this week in DC as Mountain View lobbied lawmakers and interest groups to endorse its autonomous vehicle technology.
A driver-free Prius, equipped with an advanced spinning laser sensor, successfully navigated busy streets near the Capitol, as Google rep Anthony Levandowski explained how the car could ultimately help make driving safer.
"We think it has tremendous benefits, for society and America at large," Levandowski told Politico. "We don't think the technology is ready yet, but we're in the stages of where we're proving out and learning how the car behaves in the real world, and where the creases are that need to be improved."
Indeed, the self-driving car is currently capable of reacting and adapting when it senses errant movements by other vehicles or pedestrians in crosswalks. In addition, says Levandowski, a Google car doesn't run the risk of driving drunk and obviously can't text behind the wheel.
Nevertheless, concerns over viability, cost and thorny legal issues remain. For example, states are only now beginning to examine the possibility of allowing autonomous vehicles on their roads, with Nevada becoming the first to pass a bill explicitly permiting driverless cars on its streets.
"From our perspective, every state that we've actively looked at, it's just not contemplated — period — which would imply it's not regulated or prohibited, so it's OK for us to operate," Levandowski explained.
For now, though, Google seems focused on introducing the driverless car to various interest groups, including AARP, the American Council of the Blind and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Clearly, all three organizations are potential allies that could help Mountain View lobby and promote its autonomous vehicle technology in the corridors of DC.
Levandowski said Google hopes to learn how the above-mentioned groups "see the tech today, how they see it going forward and how to help us bring this technology to America, to make our roads safer."