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Google’s self-driving car hits the streets

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Nevada is the first state to approve a license for “autonomous vehicles” — in other words, cars that cruise, twist and turn without the need for a driver.

The license was issued Monday 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.”

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