Google's driverless car system has been declared legal by a US regulator

Google’s self-driving car, a sophisticated piece of artificial intelligence, is one step closer to being allowed on the roads after the US road regulator gave its seal of approval.

A letter from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to Google, published this week, said the driverless system could be given the same legal definition as a real human driver thanks to technological advancements.

The document said: “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.

(Tony Avelar/AP/PA)

“In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the SDS (self-driving system), is actually driving the vehicle.”

Up until this point, driverless cars have not been considered safe or roadworthy – so this is a legal breakthrough for Google.

Now, with the NHTSA’s blessing, the self-driving pod can take the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards test.

Google’s fleet of prototype driverless cars rely on sensors and software to complete journeys.

Their shape is more rounded than normal cars to allow the lasers, radars and cameras to detect objects in all directions. They are powered by electric batteries and have an interior that is “designed for riding, not for driving”.

(Yui Mok/PA)

Earlier this month, it was disclosed that transport bosses in London are in “active discussion” with Google in a bid to bring trials of the driverless cars to the UK.

It was also announced by the Government that they will invest £20 million in eight driverless car projects in the UK.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the technology would “profoundly change” travel within years – by reducing accidents and helping traffic flow.


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