May 8, 2012 at 2:35 PM ET
It's been almost a year since Nevada first passed laws allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on its roads. After much deliberation, the first license plate (complete with custom design) has been issued to Google, allowing the company to operate its self-driving car throughout the state.
The new license plate is red and features an infinity symbol and the letters "AU," for "autonomous." Nevada's DMV director, Bruce Breslow, describes the new design:
I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the "car of the future." The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles. When there comes a time that vehicle manufactures market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate.
The process of approval took time because although Nevada had previously expressed in law that autonomous vehicles would be considered for licensing, companies still have to prove that their cars are safe and that there are measures in place for insurance, training, accident reporting, and so on.
Google is the first company to receive a plate, though others may soon flock to the state, taking advantage of its friendly laws and wide open spaces to develop their own vehicles. According to the DMV, "just about every manufacturer in Detroit" is interested, though some are farther along than others.
Chinese and European companies are looking into it as well, for instance Germany's Continental Automotive group. They've racked up thousands of miles of test time in order to qualify for a license, though Google is so far the only company to have actually applied and gotten one.
Google will hold an event on May 23rd to discuss and commemorate the milestone, but said there wouldn't be any major announcements on that date, just an official presentation.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.