Photo by Allen Tran

Google is evidently taking its campaign to make its driverless cars legal on U.S. roads from state capitals to the nation’s capital. A Google robo-Prius was spotted last Tuesday roaming the streets of Washington, D.C., only a day after Nevada became the first state to legalize autonomous vehicles on the Silver State’s roads.
U.S. News & World Report speculated that Google was in town to appeal to federal policymakers, and possibly take them for joyrides in one of the company’s self-driving Prius hybrids. The outlet also noted that Google has racked up a reported $5 million legislative lobbying tab in the first quarter of 2012 alone – more contributed to candidates’ coffers in the same time period than Apple, Facebook and Microsoft combined.
Getting lawmakers in the seat of a self-driving Prius has become Google’s M.O., according to Matthew Newton, editor of, a site dedicated to covering autonomous cars. “Google has been giving free rides to policymakers in California, Nevada and Florida,” Newton told Wired from his home base in Melbourne, Australia. “So it makes sense that they would do it in D.C.”
Now that Google has largely cleared the technical hurdles of getting self-driving cars on the road, the next step is gaining public acceptance – and winning over policymakers, Newton added. And due to its considerable lobbying war chest and cultural clout, Google apparently has no problem getting access to powerful politicians. Some, in fact, are seeking out Google rather than the other way around.
According to Politico, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) went for a spin in a Google self-driving Toyota Prius last month, as part of a GOP effort to reach out to Silicon Valley’s deep well of tech innovators and their deeper pockets. We couldn’t confirm whether other elected officials may have been taken for a ride by Google. (Our request for more information went unanswered as of press time.)
And in the same way that Google surreptitiously clocked close to 150,000 miles on California roads before news of the company’s fleet of self-driving Prius hybrids leaked out, the search giant also furtively cruised into Washington, D.C., last week. But then U.S. News and World Report science and technology reporter Jason Koebler spotted the Prius and his friend Allen Tran snapped the blurry picture above with his camera phone.
Koebler told Wired that Tran took the picture and posted it on Facebook. “I saw it when I got home from work,” Koebler said in an e-mail interview. “Twenty minutes later, I was riding my bike to the movies and saw it right around the corner from my house – just a weird stroke of luck.” Koebler said he tried to whip out his camera phone but wasn’t fast enough on the draw, and the car drove away.
“I was going to chase after it,” Koebler added. “There were two guys in the front seats [and I] wanted to talk about what they were doing, but I missed the light. Had I known Google would have been so hard to get in touch with, I would have tried harder. But they’ve been responsive to media requests in the past so I was surprised I didn’t hear back from them on this.”
According to DriverlessCarHQ, the Washington, D.C., Department of Motor Vehicles said in a tweet that Google didn’t inform the agency of its plans to operate the car in the nation’s capital. (As with most states, D.C. allows drivers to operate out-of-state vehicles.) And U.S News & World Report said that officials for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology had no knowledge of Google’s plans.


via Noobsters Forums