Nevada became the first US state to give the green light for Google to test its driver-less car on public roads.
The state's Department of Motor Vehicles said in a statement that it had approved a license application filed by the online information group after experts were satisfied with the outcome of a series of tests in various environments.
The department also said it had conducted a review of Google's safety plans, employee training, systems functions and accident reporting mechanisms.
Google announced its self-driving car project in 2010 and said at the time that its aim was to "make driving safer, more enjoyable and more efficient." Since the launch, Google's fleet of test cars has completed more than 200,000 miles of driver-less driving.
Google isn't the only company working on systems that could take the driver out of the driving equation. Daimler's head of research, Thomas Weber, told automotiveIT in January that "the preconditions for autonomous driving will be in place" by 2015.
And Cadillac officials said last month that the brand would be ready to build a self-driving or “semi-autonomous” vehicle by the middle of this decade.
Google's tests are interesting, however, because they could mark the entry of a new non-traditional player in what could quickly develop into an important niche technology for the auto industry.
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, said in a blog post in March that he believed the driver-less technology "has the potential to dramatically improve transportation efficiency, safety, and comfort."
Nevada will issue a separate testing business license and license plate for the Google project. The license plates will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol.
"The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles," said Bruce Breslow, head of he Department of Motor 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."
Breslow said the symbol represents the forward-looking nature of the Google project.
Following the approval of Google's application, the department said it expects other carmakers to test and develop autonomous technology in Nevada in the future.