Some might think that Nevada lawmakers are just wasting time passing a lot of laws for no reason. Why would they be drafting and passing laws about something like this? For the same reason they draft laws about anything, honestly. Because they can. But that's politics, not automotive technology.
Turns out, Google has been lobbying pretty hard in Nevada to get this passed. The company convinced the legislature to pass a bill requiring the state's DMV to draft rules for acceptance. The DMV has done so and those rules have been approved by the Legislative Commission that was waiting for them. So now, legally, you can operate a self-driving car in Nevada provided you register it as such with the state's DMV (who then issue red license plates to denote the car's status). The catch? Right now it's for testing and demonstration purposes and not for public consumption.
Other states may soon be following suit.
Why Google? Because Google has been working on self-driving cars for at least three years now.
Wait.. Self-Driving Cars?
If you're of Generation X or thereabouts, you no doubt remember Kit from the television show Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff (he's big in Germany right now). There were a handful of cool shows on the air in those days, but few were as imagination-stirring for the car lover as Knight Rider. Well, Google has been working on something like that, a self-driving car system that controls the vehicle entirely with no human input. While the Toyota Prius cars they use aren't as cool looking at Kit was, they are almost as sophisticated.
The oscillating red light on the grille is noticeably missing from the test bed Prii, but when Google went public with the fact that they were testing this idea on public roads (back in 2010), they'd already logged 160,000 miles without an incident. The problem? Doing those tests on public roadways was not exactly legal. But hey, everything in California is illegal anyway.
Google isn't the only one, either, just the most public.
Both Audi and Volkswagen have also been working on similar technologies. Audi climbed Pikes Peak in Colorado with their self-driving unit - named Shelley, in honor of the first woman to win at Pikes Peak, Michele Mouton, who drove an Audi - in 2010 with noticeably less fanfare. Despite the fact that the Robotic Car is a much cooler-looking TTS and it competed in a race not just driving down a freeway. That car was developed in conjunction with Volkswagen at their Stanford University Electronic s Research Lab.
So while the self-driving car might not be a reality in the common marketplace for some time (for one thing, a lot of red tape and changes in legislation would be required), the cars are out there and will eventually become something we see more regularly.