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Decision by NHTSA clears obstacle for self-driving cars

Oklahoma motorists who have followed the progress of the development of self-driving cars may be interested in a decision by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that clears some obstacles out of the way. According to a Feb. 4 letter from the NHTSA to Google, under federal law, the driver in autonomous vehicles will be considered to be the software that does the decision-making.

One issue facing developers was that federal regulations require driver notification for various issues with the vehicle such as low tire pressure. On conventional cars, this is a dashboard alert. Since the car’s artificial intelligence is the driver, it will be notified. The NHTSA also raised the issue that passengers in the car may need to be notified as well.

The federal agency said it would issue guidelines for self-driving cars within six months and that it would also consider waiving some safety regulations. It also said that once the cars are found safe, it would assist in deployment on a large scale. However, it may take months or even years to revise regulations, and there are still a number of issues that must be decided. For example, the state of California has proposed that a licensed driver must be in every car and that cars must have a steering wheel, but there are safety considerations in giving humans the option to take over driving that Google has raised.

Self-driving vehicles may be able to significantly reduce the number of car accidents, but until the time come when they have replaced human drivers entirely, negligent motorists will still be the cause of most collisions. A person who has been injured as the result of another driver may want the assistance of an attorney when seeking compensation for medical expenses and other losses.