US Government says Self Driving Car Computers Qualify as Drivers

A Google self-driving car is seen inside a lobby at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

It is expected the Apple Car will be able to drive itself.  Apple with its tremendous technical skill in the software and hardware domains and its extensive work building Apple maps is in an obvious position to develop a self-driving car.

Aside from the technology there are a lot of regulations which would be subverted if cars drive themselves.  All driving regulations assume a human driver.  A driverless car could not be allowed on the road according to present day law.

However, if the government agrees to accept the computer in the car as a driver, then it opens the door to widespread legal use of self driving vehicles.

In the current article, Reuters got a copy of a letter the USTO sent to Google agreeing to consider their computers as a driver thereby marking a major landmark in the history of the automobile.

In addition to Google, this would also of course benefit Apple and other automakers who will be making such vehicles.

Source (Reuters)

3 Comments on US Government says Self Driving Car Computers Qualify as Drivers

  1. Hi Lyle!

    Good job getting an early jump on the Apple Car topic, which surely will be a sensation – especially when/if the first test mule is seen! – Surely the webosphere will explode!

    I can’t say I buy into fully autonomous cars. The legal implications are too complex. No matter what early decisions are made at this point, no way are lawyers going to sue a CAR for killing someone and/or damaging property. No way will manufacturers build something from which they are liable for such. And no way we can be close to building a car that drives at posted speeds on public roads that have a 95% chance of no anomalies with thousands of non-autonomous drivers, pedestrians, animals and buildings! Space shuttles had many “fail- safes” and we know how THAT worked out! Self-driving cars are in that same category as “flying cars”. I enjoy those CGI videos on YouTube as much as the next guy – the winged-quadcopter car that unfolds it’s wings, rolls out of the suburban garage and flies over all the traffic congestion to transportation nirvana… There is a guy in my state who has had his flying car’s picture and story posted millions of times online and in print, but 30 years later, he’s no closer to it becoming a reality than when he started. Same deal. Too many hurdles – no safety net. These things capture the hearts of dreamers and we love imagining them…

    I think we need to dream better, and visualize better. Autonomous taxis or buses could work in divided lanes on thoroughfares with barriers between their path and the paths of others. There are plenty of possibilities for this technology, just not some pipedream we all share of reading our tablet or working on that presentation whilst the car merrily does all the driving, flipping off that other robot that just cut us off…etc..

    The reachable dream for me is getting off of petroleum and changing the petrol-based economy towards a sustainable energy one. We must crawl before we can run. 🙂

  2. Hello James – nice to see you!

    Seems like the collective mind has been made up on autonomous cars, though Im sure enthusiasts will still be able to enjoy driving for years to come.

  3. Comparing a self-driving car to a flying car is tempting, but a bad analogy. We already have millions of human driven cars and all we are talking about is replacing the human with a machine. Replacing humans with machines is something that has happened in every facet of life since the industrial revolution. Humans drive with a set of learned skills and established rules. That a computer can master those same skills is undeniable. A flying car requires several breakthroughs in physics and engineering which simply haven’t happened yet. That cars will be self driving I have no doubt, and we can imagine the difficulties. But it’s the unintended consequences I worry about. Will people feel safe putting their children into a self-driving car with no adult? I don’t think so. There has to be a new set of rules we have to think about.

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