Google’s run into plenty of legal red tape in its quest to bring self-driving cars to the mainstream. However, a recent ruling from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should help speed up the entire process significantly.
The computers that control Google’s self-driving cars will now be legally considered “drivers,” according to the NHTSA (via MIT Technology Review). The federal agency notes that if a human can’t physically drive the car, then whatever is controlling it should be considered the driver. This applies to Google’s vehicles, which don’t include a steering wheel in their design.
The company previously ran into issues in California, where the government had ruled that a “driver” needed to be seated behind the wheel at all times in case anything goes wrong. Thanks to the NHTSA, Google’s own computers should be able to fill that role moving forward.
As a result, it may not be too long before Google’s self-driving cars can legally roam the streets with passengers inside. You may even be able to buy one for yourself, though the company’s plan seems to focus more on a sort of public shuttle service than individual ownership for now.