U.S. vehicle regulators are warming up to Google's self-driving car technology, now ruling that the AI driver would be enough to pilot the vehicle without the need for a human driver as well.
This is huge news for Google, as it could soon eliminate a major hurdle the company had to face. So far, the U.S. government has required self-driving car technologies to have a human driver inside at all times, ready to take over if necessary.
Google submitted a proposal to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a few months ago, requesting approval for a self-driving car design that would no longer need a human driver.
The NHTSA finally responded to Google's proposal, virtually giving Google the green light to have self-driving cars with AI as the legal driver.
This means that a human driver would no longer required to back up the AI driver of the autonomous vehicle. In fact, the human passengers don't even need a driving license, according to the NHTSA's new ruling.
"NHTSA will interpret 'driver' in the context of Google's described motor vehicle design as referring to the SDS [Self Driving System], and not to any of the vehicle occupants," the regulator explains. "We agree with Google its SDV [Self Driving Vehicle] will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years."
It's worth pointing out, however, that the rule-making could take a while. Regulators agree that some updated rules would be necessary to allow self-driving car computers to be considered legal drivers without assistance from human drivers, but this doesn't mean it's already in effect as of now.
Nevertheless, the new ruling marks a significant step forward not only for Google and its self-driving AI technology, but also for other companies that are interested in building autonomous vehicles.
We're still years away from having fully autonomous vehicles seamlessly roaming the streets and available to the general public, but the progress made so far is undeniably significant. Companies such as Google and others continue to make innovations and further advance the technology, heralding an interesting future on the road.