The Google driverless car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for autonomous cars. The software powering Google’s cars is called Google Chauffeur. Lettering on the side of each car identifies it as a “self-driving car”. The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun’s team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law on June 29, 2011, permitting the operation of autonomous cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for robotic car laws. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for an autonomous car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driverless technology. In April 2012, Florida became the second state to allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads. California became the third state to legalize the use of self-driven cars for testing purposes as of September 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law at Google HQ in Mountain View. Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing the testing of automated or self-driving vehicles on Michigan’s roads in December 2013, but requires a human in the driver seat at all times while the vehicle is in use.
In August 2011, a human-controlled Google driverless car was involved in a crash near Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Google has stated that the car was being driven manually at the time of the accident. A previous incident involved a Google driverless car being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. Google says that neither of these incidents were the fault of Google’s car but the fault of other humans operating the car.