NHTSA Rules AI Is a Driver in Self-driving Cars, Too

February 20, 2016

Google, the digital giant, has won another round in its plans to conquer the automotive industry with its self-driving car system. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency responsible for setting the rules and regulations on America’s roads, has likely changed its perspective about artificial intelligence in cars as similar to human drivers. This may well pave the way for the introduction of vehicles without the conventional pedals and wheels.

This possible change in perspective was concluded from the letter made public this week; the letter was from the NHTSA to Google regarding self-driving systems. Based on an excerpt, the federal agency has asserted that if there are no human occupant who can actually drive the vehicle, then it is more reasonable to assume that that driver is whatever is doing the driving – in this case, the artificial intelligence or smart computer.

Until this letter, any type of car without a human for its driver will not be considered roadworthy. The change was made because of the technological advancements in the emerging self-driving car sector.

This is a boost for Google since its self-driving pod, which does not have the usual in-car controls, may likely be allowed on public roads sooner than expected. With the NHTSA’s approval, Google’s pod can be considered compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards test.

The US federal government has announced last month that it has a $4 billion plan for the creation of nationwide rules and regulations for self-driving cars. The NHTSA’s blessing of Google’s self-driving system is then a boost for the latter in view of the federal plan.

Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, has also said that the federal government is taking great care in embracing the innovations in the automotive industry. The agency’s goal is to boost the safety and improve the efficiency of the nation’s roadways in light of the self-driving cars.