In a victory for Google’s self-driving car program, Reuters reports that a previously-unreleased letter from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that the artificial intelligence (AI) driver in the firms vehicles can be classified as a 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”, the letter said.
That means that potentially lots of red tape could be cut, a boon for Google and other companies working on driverless cars, as it would acknowledge that AI has the awareness to drive a car without a human to make judgements and intervene. Ultimately, this may clear the way for more driverless cars to be launched faster, as long as they fulfil the NHTSA’s road safety requirements.
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“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”, the NHTSA said.
Until there is a more concrete way to approve driverless cars for road use on federal and state levels, Google and the competition are trying workarounds. For example, to design cars that allow a human to intervene when necessary, even though there is a potential issue whether such interference would be detrimental to the AI to make safe decisions.
Furthermore, the NHTSA suggest that Google apply for exemptions to some of the regulations already in place, as long as their are supporting documents vouching that the cars are road safe.
It’s yet another step in the gradual march towards autonomous vehicles, but the fact that a federal agency complies with the change is welcome to all.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.