Highway safety board says computer system could be considered the driver of the vehicle.
After a night out on the town with a few friends, you may be able to depend on your self-driving Google car to drive you safely home. According to an article on Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told Google the agency will interpret the “driver” of a self-driving vehicle as the driving system, and not any of the passengers in the vehicle at the time.
In a letter posted on the NHTSA’s website this week, the agency said, “NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants. We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years.”
There are still a number of legal issues surrounding the process of developing driver-less cars, but this new ruling clears the way for Google and other manufacturers to design vehicle driving systems that will communicate directly with the auto-pilot, with out human intervention. The next step, according to the NHTSA is to determine of Google could certify a system that meets a standard that has been developed for human drivers.
Karl Brauer, senior analyst for the Kelley Blue Book automotive research firm, said if “NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles, it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road.”
Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox also said the administration could be looking at new legal authority to allow large numbers of self-driving cars on the highways, once they have been deemed safe for use.
Many federal regulations would have to be re-visited before the autonomous cars can start driving on America’s highways, but the NHTSA has already said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to allow for driver-less cars to operate on the road. The agency said it would write new guidelines for the self-driving cars within the next six months. Re-writing those federal regulations, however, could take years.
By that time, a driver-less cab may be available as well.