The following is an excerpt from Mike Ramsey | February 10, 2016 | WSJ.com |
Federal highway regulators, aiming to help companies figure out how to meet safety standards when designing cars, are willing to consider a computer running an autonomous vehicle as the “driver.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s decision, coming in response to a query from an official with Alphabet Inc.’s Google X self-driving car program, will likely provide flexibility in meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that govern a range of design requirements. For instance, the location of a turn signal stock and how an accelerator pedal functions are regulated by these standards.
These rules were crafted without consideration of a self-driving vehicle, and Alphabet needed clarification since it will develop vehicle cockpits for passengers who let a computer make driving decisions.
The move is a win for the Google autonomous-car program, which has been under development since 2009, and other companies looking to build vehicles that don’t require a driver. The decision, however, doesn’t give unlimited leeway to designers—NHTSA said the Mountain View, Calif., company has to ask for an exemption from regulation that have specifications meant to protect physical drivers.
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