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NHTSA approves computer as driver in self-driving cars

On Feb. 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to Google that may hasten the speed at which South Carolina drivers see self-driving cars on their roads. The letter was in response to a proposed design that Google submitted to the agency on Nov. 12, 2015. According to the NHTSA, the software that is responsible for piloting the vehicles can be considered the legal driver.

This has a number of implications for the development of the driverless vehicles. It means that the vehicle's instruments can communicate directly with the artificial intelligence of the car. For example, regular vehicles are required to alert a driver if the tire pressure is low. With the vehicle as driver, the alert will go to the software. It is not yet clear whether the humans in the car will also be alerted.

In fact, how much control human occupants of the vehicles will have is still undecided. There are laws that require vehicles to have a foot brake, and this is a requirement that may be waived. California has asked that all autonomous cars have a licensed driver in them and a steering wheel, but Google has said that allowing a human driver to take over operations may have negative safety implications. The NHTSA said that regulations covering such safety requirements as steering wheels would have to first be rewritten.

Experts predict that roads would be significantly safer with driverless cars rather than human-driven cars, and it has been found that most accidents happen due to human error. After an accident, a person might have serious injuries as a result of another driver's negligence, and as such may want to have the aid of an attorney in seeking compensation for medical expenses from the at-fault motorist.

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