National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Says Self-Driving Vehicles’ Artificial Intelligence Tantamount to ‘Driver’ Under Certain Circumstances

Feb 10, 2016


Reuters reported today that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has issued a letter interpreting that the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving vehicle could be considered the “driver” under federal law–a major step toward ultimately winning regulatory approval for autonomous vehicles on the roads.

The letter, issued in response to a request from Google, sets forth specific provisions under which a self-driving system (“SDS”) would be defined as the “driver,” but adds that regulators have no defined way at this time of verifying whether Google is in compliance with the listed requirements.  

“Thus, if Google certified its compliance with these provisions consistent with this interpretation, NHTSA would be unable to conduct confirmatory testing to satisfy ourselves that such compliance was valid.  Therefore, unless and until NHTSA develops performance criteria and test procedures for evaluating whether the SDS satisfies the (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) provision in question to be met, or a standard providing equal or greater safety, it cannot interpret Google’s (self-driving vehicle) as compliant with these standards and requirements.  Google may wish to petition the agency for exemption from these petitions in the interim,” the NHTSA said.

To view the NHTSA letter, click here.

To read Reuters news coverage via Insurance Journal, click here.



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