"Computers that control cars of the future can be considered drivers just like humans, the US federal government's highway safety agency has found.
The redefinition of "driver" by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an important break for Google, taking it a step closer to its goal of self-driving cars without steering wheels, pedals or human drivers.
The company still has a long journey ahead before its cars get on the road in great numbers. While the safety agency agreed with Google's "driver" reinterpretation in a recent letter, it didn't allow other concessions and said numerous federal rules would have to be changed to permit the cars.
The agency rejected many of Google's claims that its cars met federal auto safety standards, including a requirement for foot and hand brakes. Google said the requirement wasn't necessary because the electronic driver can stop the cars. Yet the government said regulations are clear and would have to be changed to allow that.
The decision by the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration marks a huge moment for Google and the rest of the auto industry as it races to build the first fully autonomous motor vehicle. While most other carmakers are building their vehicles with steering wheels, brake pedals and other machinery in mind, Google imagines that its robot car will have none of these things.
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