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Google gets license to operate driverless cars in Nevada

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nevada approves a license for "autonomous vehicles" that drive themselves
  • Google will test out its self-driving technology in the state; other companies may follow
  • The company says its cars have driven 200,000 miles solo without accidents
  • Nevada's new red license plate feature an infinity symbol

(CNN) -- If you want to salute, race or flirt with other drivers in Nevada, you could soon be out of luck with some cars.

That's because on Monday, Nevada became the first to approve a license for "autonomous vehicles" -- in other words, cars that cruise, twist and turn without the need for a driver -- on its roads.

The license goes to Google, the Silicon Valley technology giant known more for its search engine and e-mail service that nonetheless has been known to dive into other big ideas such as space elevators to Internet-enabled glasses.

In a 2010 post on Google's official blog, engineer and Google X founder Sebastian Thrun said that the self-driving vehicle project aims "to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use."

He noted that the "automated cars use video cameras, radio sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps ... to navigate the road ahead." There is no driver needed, though one is typically in the front seat ready to take control if need be.

Earlier this spring, Google said it had "safely completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving."

Monday marked a new milestone for the project, when Nevada issued a special license after demonstrations on state freeways, state highways, in Carson City neighborhoods and on Las Vegas' landmark Las Vegas Strip, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles said in a news release.

The new plate is red and features the infinity symbol and the letters AU, for autonomous vehicle. All such cars on the road are "test" vehicles for now, though the state signaled it intends to be "at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development."

"I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the 'car of the future,' " state DMV Director Bruce Breslow said. "When there comes a time that vehicle manufactures market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate."

Google was the first company to apply to test its self-driving system in Nevada, the state said, while indicating that "other auto manufacturers have indicated their desire to test and develop" such technology in the state.

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