Google’s hopes of developing a self-driving car have taken a significant step forward after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said that under federal law, the artificial intelligence in the vehicle could be considered the driver. Vehicle manufacturers and tech companies involved in developing driverless vehicles for use in New Jersey and around the country have been stymied by federal and state safety regulations that in some cases may need to be rewritten to accommodate the new technology.
Naming the software as the driver clarifies how some regulations will be handled. For example, under federal law, drivers must be notified by a car’s instruments when tire pressure is low. The NHTSA’s designation means that the car’s software will be notified although whether or not human occupants will also be notified is undecided.
There is still uncertainty regarding the role of the humans riding in the driverless cars. Some regulators want driverless cars to have steering wheels and brakes that humans can use to override the artificial intelligence, but companies developing the technology say that allowing humans to interfere with the software’s decision-making is ultimately more unsafe. The NHTSA has said that within six months, it will issue regulations for self-driving cars. It has also expressed a willingness to work with manufacturers in order to deploy the cars widely once safety concerns are addressed.
It is believed that if driverless cars became the norm, road safety would be significantly improved, and these autonomous vehicles could go a long way towards curbing drunk driving accidents. Until such time, however, people will still get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, and a person who has been injured as a result of an accident caused by an impaired driver may want to have the assistance of an attorney in seeking compensation for the losses that have been sustained.