Google’s Driverless Car Draws Political Power – WSJ.com
Marilyn Dondero Loop, a Nevada state assemblywoman, remembers being skeptical and concerned of possible dangers with self-driving cars when a Google Inc. lobbyist first approached her last year.
But then Google introduced Ms. Dondero Loop, who chairs the assembly’s transportation committee, to people who had ridden in its self-driving cars and showed her a video of one stopping when people crossed in front it.
“That was an ‘aha’ moment for me,” said Ms. Dondero Loop, whose committee later introduced a bill paving way for legalizing the vehicles on Nevada streets that was quickly passed into law in June 2011.
Google has taken the same inspirational playbook to other states, working with a network of local lobbyists and in-house policy experts to woo legislators with demonstrations and rides in its exotic cars.
In the process, the Mountain View, Calif., company is building its credentials as an astute political operator. Google has been “pretty savvy” at navigating state capitols, said Frank Douma, a transportation-policy author and associate director at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. With its self-driving cars, Google “knew what they were doing by moving forward in Nevada” before approaching bigger states, he said. “If you blow it in the first state, you’ve really got problems.”