The first license for Google’s latest invention — a self-driving car — has been issued in the state of Nevada.

The self-driving car — a modified Toyota Prius — uses a laser radar placed on the roof that can detect pedestrians, obstacles and other cars. A GPS system and some artificial intelligence allow the car to drive itself with very little intervention from the person sitting inside it.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles decided to issue the first license after demonstrations proved that the car is safe for public street testing. However, there is one important regulation the DMV requires: two people must be in the test car at all times. One in the driver’s seat in case intervention is required (touching the brakes or steering wheel automatically gives control to the driver), and one person watching the computer screen that displays the car’s route, traffic lights and any potential hazards.

Many people feel this car has the potential to be safer than the average driver because of its controlled speed and its ability to detect hazards at all angles.

“It gets honked at more often because it’s being safe,” Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow told the press.

And the good thing about testing in a busy tourist destination like Las Vegas? 

“They’re designed to avoid distracted driving,” Breslow continued. “When you’re on the Strip and there’s a huge truck with a picture of three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box.”

For now, the car will have bright red test plates and an infinity symbol that represents its status as a vehicle of the future. Once on the market — which could be within three to five years — self-driving cars will feature green plates.

For seniors who have lost most of their sight (like Steve Mahan featured in the video below), the promise of a car like this gives them hope that they will one day be self-reliant again. As sight declines with age, many people lose their license and therefore the ability to get around on their own. A vehicle that safely gets them from point A to point B could help ensure the aging population continues to live an active and fulfilling life.

Here’s a look at the car in action:

Sources: Google, Wikipedia, Mashable, CBC, PCWorld

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by:
Lisa Lagace