The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA has responded to a question posed to them by Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, who had submitted a possible new design for a fully autonomous car that had “no need for a human driver”. This query included concepts that, at the moment, would be completely illegal such as the removal of the stock that controls the indicators and the removal of brake pedals. The NHTSA have come back and said “If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the “driver” as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving” and the term “driver” is “meaningless for the purposes of an SDV (self driving vehicle)”.
The NHTSA doesn’t actually create laws, but they interpret and reevaluate them for modern purposes. They are hugely influential and this will give the autonomous car industry a huge push. The NHTSA’s patronage will allow Alphabet to push for new laws across the USA for the governing of SDV’s.
However, Google cars are facing some serious obstacles in their home state of California. They have drafted laws against full autonomous cars stating that it vehicles where the occupant can’t override the computer are banned. They also have declared that you would need to attain a special licence in order to drive the vehicle. Jean Shiomoto, the director of the DMV stated their reasoning for this was due to their main focus being “the safety of autonomous vehicles and the safety of the public who will share the road with these vehicles.”
Google’s aim with the development of self driven cars is to open up the world of transport to old, young and disabled people. With this latest shove in the right direction, it seems we may have completely driverless cars in the not so distant future.