Google's autonomous car takes a big step forward with a federal regulator's decision to consider its self-driving system as the driver. But legal roadblocks remain. Fred Katayama reports.
A big step forward for Google's autonomous auto. U.S. regulators say federal law could consider its computerized self-driving system as the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's decision comes as California, where Google's parent Alphabet is based, has proposed draft rules that require steering wheels and a licensed driver in those cars. Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said if "NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles, it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road." But other legal obstacles remain. NHTSA said it can't immediately waive regulations requiring safety equipment such as braking systems. Google's no fan of backseat drivers. It says that giving human drivers a way to take over control of functions like steering or braking could be dangerous because they could override the computer's decisions. Google said it is "still evaluating" the agency's decision. It wants to commercialize autonomous cars by 2020.