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Put Undocumented Immigrants in Driverless Cars

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Opinion: Put Undocumented in Driverless Cars

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) California Gov. Jerry Brown, California State Sen. Alex Padilla and Google co-founder Sergey Brin exit a self-driving car at the Google headquarters on September 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed State Senate Bill 1298 that allows driverless cars to operate on public roads for testing purposes. The bill also calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern licensing, bonding, testing and operation of the driverless vehicles before January 2015. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sometimes you can solve two problems by putting them together.

Let's take two issues, both related to legislation recently passed in Sacramento, and see how it works.

1. California has, by some estimates, as many as 3 million unauthorized immigrants. And even with new legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to permit licenses for certain of these immigrants, most still won't be able to drive legally.

2. Google just pushed through legislation to establish rules to govern use of the driverless calls it has invented. But it's far from clear that there's a market for such vehicles.

What to do? Here is my modest proposal: put these two problems together!

And permit those unauthorized immigrants to use driverless cars.

The immigrants won't have to drive. They just have to sit there. No need for a full license.

And Google, with a generous subsidy to such immigrants, could immediately create a market, and economies of scale for its invention.

Now, I recognize there might be some howling about a few particulars in this innovative plan. Some will wonder about legalizing the undocumented to do anything, or whether driverless cars will make undocumented immigrants easier to spot. And some will wonder further about whether Google will want to define its car brand in this way.

But those are mere details. And if my plan is too complex, there's always the simpler approach: authorizing the undocumented to drive and obtain licenses (as California used to do before the 1990s) and subsidizing industries that we think are promising.

But such things are too... sensical. So my modest proposal will have to do.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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