The thought of a car driving itself on U.S. roadways may still seem like a scene from Transformers or Knight Rider, but four legislators in three states brought the possibility much closer to reality in the last few years. California, Florida and Nevada all passed legislation creating a formal legal framework for autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Spearheading those efforts were California Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima; Florida Reps. Jeffrey Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes; and Nevada Rep. Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas. Dondero Loop was the first lawmaker to propose legislation allowing driverless cars and setting up ground rules for their use, followed by Florida and California.

Google has been testing a driverless car for several years, logging more than 200,000 miles in California. Audi, BMW and other auto manufacturers are testing their own autonomous vehicles. While Google and the manufacturers have yet to establish a release date or price point for the technology, experts believe self-driving cars could hit the market as soon as 2020.

“I imagine a lot of people think of a self-driving car as science fiction or something out of The Jetsons,” Padilla said at a 2012 news conference announcing California’s driverless car legislation. “But we’re living in an era of Moore’s Law, where every two years we double our computer processing speeds. And what it’s done is it’s allowed us to demonstrate exponential improvements to the areas of advanced technology, including the ability to use technology to make self-driving cars a reality sooner rather than later.”

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Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.