NHTSA declares that Google’s AI ‘Driver’ Can Qualify For US Roads

In a letter to Google’s Chris Urmson, the director of the company’s self-driving car project, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concludes that it would consider the company’s self-driving vehicles (SDVs) as having a driver under federal regulations, despite being controlled by a computer.  This means that self-driving or autonomous vehicles are a step closer to America’s highways.  NHTSA posted a detailed response on its Web site. Google’s SDVs are fully autonomous, meaning that the operations of these vehicles are controlled exclusively by a self-driving system (SDS), according to the search giant.  The SDS is an artificial-intelligence (AI) driver, which is a computer designed into the motor vehicle itself that controls all aspects of driving by perceiving its environment and responding to it. Now, according to the NHTSA, that’s enough to qualify for driving. “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,” according to the NHTSA, which was released this week. “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’s cars are designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. “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,” according to the NHTSA.  

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