These are really revolutionary times we are living in; according to the U.S. federal transport safety regulator, computers can also be considered as drivers when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Updating the rules could, however, take some time.
A number of companies, including Google and some including traditional car makers, are interested in the move made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since they are all working on partially or fully autonomous cars.
The decision came after Google filed in a proposal relating to the ability of its self-driving cars to pass regulation. Paul A. Hemmersbaugh, chief counsel of the NHTSA, replied in a letter that, “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.”
According to the current motor vehicle standards, the driver is described as “the occupant of a motor vehicle seated immediately behind the steering control system.” However, since the invention of self-driving systems (SDSs) controlled by computers, Google explained that some designs are without steering wheels and brakes.
Therefore, the tech giant has asked the NHTSA to include the operation of the new cars in the provisions in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs).
As Hemmersbaugh explained, Google’s description of its own self-driving vehicles falls under the Level 4 Full Self-Driving Automation rule defined in May 2013 when the NHTSA made a preliminary policy statement on automated vehicles.
According to Google’s L4 description, its cars won’t provide “conventional driver controls and interfaces” such as a steering wheel and pedals. Why? Because giving these mechanisms to a human driver could end up in the driver overriding the safe decisions of the computer.
Even though the NHTSA has agreed to reconsider the rules of the Section 571.3 in light of the changing circumstances, the agency also mentioned it could take time. In the interim, the NHTSA suggested that Google should try and seek exemptions from existing rules.
The 2013 preliminary statement of policy released by the NHTSA states that should a state allow the operation of self-driving vehicles, a licensed driver should “be available at all times in order to operate the vehicle in situations in which the automated technology is not able to safely control the vehicle.”
It’s refreshing to see a governmental agency keeping up the pace with the evolution of technology; as the self-driving technology advances, the NHTSA regulation will be reviewed to adapt to the times.
Image Source: Network World