In a world of advancing innovations, one of the biggest obstacles are lawmakers who just don’t get technology. Well, any company that has been stymied by this scenario ought to take Google’s lead, particularly when it comes to its self-driving cars: The company has demonstrated quite some finesse in the way it explained its project to officials.
Take Nevada state assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, for example. She had some serious reservations about Google’s passion project, particularly regarding public safety. The company didn’t rattle off development data or research, nor did it scoff and patronizingly dumb down some cursory explanation of the technology. Google practically courted the politician, offering her testimonials from people who’d experienced the ride and created a video that demonstrated some impressive features — like a self-driving car that stopped short when pedestrians stepped out in front of it.
“That was an ‘aha’ moment for me,” said Dondero Loop, describing her reaction to the video. So impressed was she, that her committee wound up introducing a bill for legalizing the vehicles in Nevada, which eventually passed into law in June 2011.
So far, Google has Nevada, Florida and California in its pocket, as well as bills sitting in state legislatures in four more locations — Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia — but the company’s not done yet. It’s hitting the politico trail hard, employing lobbyists and policy experts to aid in the fight. It’s also putting on the full dog-and-pony show for the politicians, with demos and even real-world ride-alongs.
The autonomous vehicles may not become widespread in the next year or two, but Google is definitely doing its best to lay down the groundwork for future development and adoption. And if it can keep racking up states like this, then the federal regulations (that are sure to come) could be a lock. Of course, that’s no guarantee, so Google’s wooing Washington too: It spent almost $9 million in the first half of 2012 to lobby Washington about autonomous vehicle technology, reaching out to lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s no joke — it spent $9.68 million total on lobbying efforts in 2011.
Clearly the self-driving car is not just a hobby for Google. Last month, Sergey Brin said he expects self-driving cars will be available within five years. Now those are some weighty words. But even if he’s wrong, no one could accuse the Google co-founder of not trying his darndest. And you know what? At the very least, he’ll be credited for lighting a fire under car companies. Word has it, GM, BMW and Toyota are all racing to develop their own autonomous automobiles.
[Via The Wall Street Journal]