Some people may have seen Google driverless cars being tested on California roads. There has been an issue for Google and other manufacturers with safety regulations because of how the law defines a driver, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said the software powering the car could be called the driver, a move that helps the companies go forward with further development and testing.
The federal agency notified Google of its determination in a Feb. 4 letter. California, however, has recently proposed that the cars have steering wheels and licensed drivers in them.
Google has argued that having steering wheels, brake and gas pedals would defeat the purpose of driverless technology. The company believes that having such features would lead to people overriding the driverless system, thus causing errors and wrecks. The NHTSA did indicate that current law requires that certain features be included in the vehicles, including foot-operated braking systems. According to the agency, the regulations would need to be re-drafted before Google and other automakers could offer driverless cars without the currently required safety features.
Google has stated that driverless cars will eventually be accident-proof because of their safe-driving automation. If Google is successful, there should be a resulting significant drop in car accidents and a corresponding decrease in accident injuries and deaths. By removing the possibility of human error, it is possible that driverless technology could save thousands of lives every year. Until that happens, however, people who are injured in a collision caused by another motorist may want to meet with an attorney in order to determine the most appropriate method of seeking compensation for their medical expenses and other losses.