US-TECHNOLOGY-CAR
  • US-TECHNOLOGY-CAR
  • A self-driving car traverses a parking lot at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California on January 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NOAH BERGER / AFP / Noah Berger (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: NOAH BERGER via Getty Images
Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO
  • Transportation Sec'y Foxx Discusses Future Transportation Trends With Google CEO
  • MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - FEBRUARY 02: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (R) and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt (L) walk around a Google self-driving car at the Google headquarters on February 2, 2015 in Mountain View, California. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined Google Chairman Eric Schmidt for a fireside chat where he unveiled Beyond Traffic, a new analysis from the U.S. Department of Transportation that anticipates the trends and choices facing our transportation system over the next three decades. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Self Driving Cars
  • Self Driving Cars
  • FILE - This May 13, 2015 file photo shows Google's new self-driving car during a demonstration at the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Regulators puzzling through how to give Californians safe access to self-driving cars of the future will hear from Google and other companies that want the state to open the road to the technology. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will hold a hearing Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, at California State University, Sacramento. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Self Driving Cars
  • Self Driving Cars
  • FILE - This May 13, 2015, file photo shows the front of Google's new self-driving prototype car during a demonstration at Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. The self-driving cars needed some old-fashioned human intervention to avoid some crashes during testing on California roads, the company revealed Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, results it says are encouraging but show the technology has yet to reach the goal of not needing someone behind the wheel. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Google Cars
  • Google Cars
  • Google's new self-driving prototype car drives around a parking lot during a demonstration at Google campus on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Google Car
  • Google Car
  • In this May 13, 2015 photo, a reporter walks toward Google's new self-driving prototype car during a demonstration at the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. The car, which needs no gas pedal or steering wheel, will make its debut on public roads this summer. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Google Car
  • Google Car
  • In this May 13, 2015 photo, Jessie Lorenz, of San Francisco, touches the new Google self-driving prototype car during a demonstration at the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. The car, which needs no gas pedal or steering wheel, will make its debut on public roads this summer. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Image Credit: Google
  • Image Credit: AOL
Autonomous self-driving driverless (drive) vehicle driving on the road
  • Autonomous self-driving driverless (drive) vehicle driving on the road
  • Autonomous self-driving driverless (drive) vehicle driving on the road
  • Image Credit: shutterstock
US regulators say Google's self-driving car can be considered the driver under federal law -- a big step towards approval for self-driving cars to take to the roads. Safety regulators apparently told Google of its decision last week. Google submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car back in November, which has "no need for a human driver" The response from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was that 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."

The regulator 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." Google, and many car companies are looking to free up safety rules that are slowing down testing and the eventual roll-out of autonomous vehicles. As Reuters notes, California has draft rules of a steering wheel and licensed driver in all self-driving cars.

It's not all easy driving from here, however. There are still rules that require braking systems activated by foot control inside the vehicle, as well as "whether and how Google could certify that the [system[ meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver."

"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."

Google told the NHTSA that human controls could paradoxically be a danger, if passengers attempt to override the car's own judgements and driving decisions. Rules about steering wheels and brake pedals would have to be formally rewritten before cars without them would be allowed on the roads, and changing the law will take months, if not years. Last month, the government agency said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to better enable self-driving cars on the roads, promising to write guidelines for these vehicles in the next six months.

This article by Mat Smith originally ran on Engadget, the definitive guide to this connected life.


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