That still raises the question of why Google picked Nevada to lobby instead of some other state.
In short, of states with relatively high rates of road deaths, Nevada is one that combines a large, relatively wealthy market for driverless cars with a probably more favorable legislature.
comment by j_andrew_rogers
· score: 14 (14 votes) · LW
) · GW
Everyone is over-thinking this. I used to live in Nevada and political process is driven by the unusual history and heuristics of the state.
The politicians do not care about technology, safety, or even being first per se. Nevada has very successfully built a political economy based on doing legislative and regulatory arbitrage against neighboring states, particularly California. If they think there is a plausible way to drive revenue by allowing things that other states do not allow, it is a surprisingly easy sale. The famous liberalism of the state, where a very atypical range of activities are legal and/or unregulated for a US state, is really just a consequence of this heuristic applied over time. If California disallows something that can generate revenue for Nevada, even if just for tourism, Nevada's instinct is to allow it as a response.
It is cheap for them, passing legislation to allow people to do something is almost free. As history shows, as a state it is pretty comfortable being the first to do a lot of things; it is not as prone to precautionary "what ifs" when there is an argument that the basic risks are manageable. It has worked out well for Nevada.
There are many, many examples of this. Everyone is familiar with "instant" weddings and divorces, which used to be much more difficult to do in most states, as well as gambling, prostitution, and other vices that were outlawed across the border. Nevada's economy is, in large part, based on making things legal and inexpensive.
There are also numerous boring examples, such as approving the construction of power plants along the California border when California had the power shortages but refused to approve power plants in the state; making it a tax-free and highly effective place to run Internet fulfillment centers (e.g. Amazon, B&N, etc are all there); they managed to designate areas of their cities as international ports to bypass California; they allow Californians to do their DMV paperwork in Nevada for the registration fees (I had a Nevada driver's license with a California address for years); they will approve almost any spectacle with minimal hassle, no matter how bizarre, if it brings in tourists from out of state.
All Google had to do was convince the politicians that they could bring money into Nevada that otherwise would end up in California. It is a calculated risk but Nevada politics has always been very comfortable doing things that are politically too risky in other states. Google probably made an argument from both jobs (the development Google does needs to take place somewhere) and tourism potential. Las Vegas is very fond of people movers that make it easier to fully exploit the city (they have a privately funded mono-rail system after all) so it could also be sold on that basis.
In short, the only foresight or rationality at work here is driving revenue by legalizing something that other states are unlikely to allow. This is an old modus operandi for Nevada legislative activity and someone at Google probably knew this.