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Technology

VIDEO: Google's Robotic Car Drives L.A. Senator Alex Padilla to His Press Conference

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Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 1:40 PM

click to enlarge Driving Mr. Padilla.
  • Driving Mr. Padilla.
Behold! Google's creepy new robotic car driving Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) to his press conference... on Google's creepy new robotic car.

How convenient.

Google cleared a huge hurdle to filling California's highways with its robo fleet yesterday, when Padilla introduced Senate Bill 1298 on the front steps of the State Capitol. The bill legalizes everyday use of autonomous vehicles, and...

... "directs the California Highway Patrol to develop standards and performance requirements for [their] safe testing and operation," said Padilla.

We can almost hear the sound of Larry Page popping the bubbly up at the Googleplex. Although the self-driving cars are old news on the tech front, their permeation into our daily lives is a huge step for Google and the rest of the future-winners.

"It was pretty amazing when Google's vehicle went into self-driving mode," Padilla raves in a press release. "The drive was smooth and safe. It worked flawlessly. It is a testament to human ingenuity and the power of technology in California."

Watch Padilla turn to putty in the driver's seat of the Googlemobile, his 21st century Prince Charming (yes, we embedded the German version of this video, because it's hilarious that Germany cares):

We admit, these things would be pretty clutch on the 405. Lean back, do your homework, play "Bedazzled" on your iPhone (or, uh, whatever you like to do on your iPhone) while a super-smart car takes care of all the stopping and swerving and other traffic snores. Could we also maybe get them to honk at A-holes, Larry?

Perhaps more importantly, Padilla says they could save a ton of lives.

"The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error. Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety on our roads and highways."

Really perfect case in point: That old woman who was just sentenced today for accidentally gunning the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal, and accidentally sort of killing two people. Come to think of it, these robot cars might be the perfect solution for L.A.'s old people, who have been known to take their vehicles up the offramp, into crowds of children, etc.

But we're still kind of creeped out by the thing, despite Google reassurances last summer that "its self-driving cars have traveled more than 160,000 miles autonomously without incident."

Because really, where will this take us in the end, as a species? Best-case scenario is like, scary Fifth Element land, and worst case scenario... Planet of the Priuses.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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