Google’s self-driving car system could soon be given the same legal definition as a human driver, paving the way for vehicles without steering wheels or pedals.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – which sets rules and regulations on America’s roads – shared its thoughts in a letter to Google made public this week.
Until now, any car without a human driver would not be considered roadworthy.
However, in light of technological advancements, the NHTSA has changed its perspective.
“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,” it said.
“In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the Self-Driving System, is actually driving the vehicle.”
It means Google’s self-driving pod, which has no typical in-car controls, is one crucial step closer to being allowed on public roads.
With the NHTSA’s blessing, the car now fits the key criteria required to pass the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards test.
Learn more: Legal breakthrough for Google’s self-driving car