Mike Stevens | May 8, 2012

Google is ready to take the next step with its self-driving Toyota Prius, securing a driver's licence for the US state of Nevada.

Yes, while our jetpacks and robot butlers aren't quite here yet, the time of lounging all the way down the freeway is just around the corner.

Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles has confirmed that it has issued Google the nation's first licence to test an autonomous vehicle on public roads, after extensive testing proved its safe driving 'skills'.

The car won't be allowed out on its own, of course. The licence requires that two people (human people, let's be clear) ride along at all times.

One occupant (nee driver) must be behind the wheel ready to yank control away from the machine, while the other must watch for potential hazards and monitor a display that shows the route ahead.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval took one of the cars for a ride (rather, was taken for a ride by one of the cars) earlier this year around the state's capital, Carson City.

It's Las Vegas that is expected to provide the car's greatest challenges however, with unique landmarks and costumed pedestrians on every corner.

"They're designed to avoid distracted driving," Nevada DMV boss Bruce Breslow said.

"When you're on the Strip and there's a huge truck with a three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box."

For now, the cars will wear red number plates with an infinity symbol to represent their status as vehicles of the future.

When the cars are made available to the public - potentially before the decade is out - the plates are expected to be green.

Above: GM's take on autonomous vehicles of the future.
Above: GM's take on autonomous vehicles of the future.

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