Google's self-driving car is 'the driver' in the eyes of the US government

No steering wheel? No pedals? No problem, says government

Shift over to the passenger seat, because Google's self-driving car is now considered "the driver" by the US government, even though it has artificial intelligence steering it.

This groundbreaking acknowledgment for the company's computer-controlled artificial intelligence (AI) system comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It addresses Google's lobbying to change whom is considered the driver for provisions in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which all production cars must follow.

The response letter goes into further detail over which specific areas of the FMVSS of the Google AI is considered the driver.

More self-driving details

Google's autonomous cars don't rely on human operators and lack ordinary input methods, like the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, parking brake, turn signals and mirrors.

Basically, it doesn't have anything a human driver requires for piloting a car. The US government's response opens up further discussions for changes and refinement to the FMVSS that can drastically change how we interpret a car in the future.

Every car produced now needs to follow the FMVSS, but as we embark on a future of self-driving cars, this simple acknowledgement is the first step for greater change to standards put in place long before AI was even a conceivable idea.

A course of action or crash course?

As much as I enjoy driving myself and fear a Skynet future, this acknowledgement from NHTSA makes perfect sense.

Google's self-driving car relies solely on sensor and camera data to drive itself. The data is also saved and logged with precise details.

If a Google car were to get into an accident, it has raw quantitative data that can be used to recreate every aspect of the accident from the AI's perspective. There isn't a he-said-she-said blame game, but a battle of fact versus what a person says.

By removing all control interfaces in a car, we remove the potential for driver error, which hopefully eliminates most human-caused car accidents. Google's Android Auto is only the exciting start to all of this.