US Regulators Qualify Google’s Autonomous Tech As Driver Of The Vehicle

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration informed Google of its decision to qualify the company’s piloted driving system as the driver of the vehicle under federal law, in a bid to boost self-driving cars.

According to Reuters, Google submitted last November a proposed design for an autonomous car that has no need for a human driver.

“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,” NHTSA’s statement said.

“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.”

Acknowledging a car’s computer as the driver legally clears the way for Google and other companies to accelerate the development of autonomous technology. NHTSA pointed out that existing regulations requiring some onboard safety equipment cannot be suspended immediately, including requirements for braking systems operated by foot.

“The next question is whether and how Google could certify that the (self-driving system) meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver,” NHTSA said in their statement.

NHTSA’s decision sounds like a step towards the right direction but there are still significant legal issues to be addressed around self-driven vehicles.