Google’s artificial intelligence system will be considered a driver under federal laws for self-driving cars, said U.S. vehicle safety regulators, according to a report from Reuters. The Internet firm is trying to win approval to bring its autonomous vehicles to the roads, and this marks a major step toward that.
Many obstacles still remain
On Feb. 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Google informing the company of its decision, and this week, the agency posted the letter on its website.
“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,” the letter said.
However, there still remains a lot of legal obstacles to putting fully autonomous vehicles on the road, and the federal agency outlined those obstacles in its response to Google. The agency noted that it is not possible to immediately waive existing regulations that require some auto safety equipment such as requirements for braking systems activated using the feet.
Another 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.
Google “still evaluating” NHTSA’s response
Despite the recognition of AI, several legal questions still surround autonomous vehicles, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for the Kelley Blue Book automotive research firm. Brauer added that if the NHTSA agrees to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles, the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road could be substantially streamlined.
On Tuesday, a Google spokesperson told Reuters that the company is “still evaluating” the NHTSA’s lengthy response. Previously, the internet firm said it will partner with established automakers to develop its self-driving cars.
There is a race going on among major automakers and technology companies to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves. Testing and the eventual deployment of such vehicles is getting impeded because of state and federal safety rules, and this is something all participants in the autonomous driving race are complaining about. Steering wheels and having a licensed driver in all self-driving cars is a mandatory requirement of California’s proposed draft rules.