Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP

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Software is driver in self-driving cars, NHTSA says

Although California regulators have asked that self-driving cars have a licensed driver on board and a steering wheel, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration may be prepared to waive these and other safety regulations. In a Feb. 4 letter, the NHTSA told Google that for purposes of federal law, the software responsible for the decision-making in autonomous cars could be considered the driver.

The agency said that it would draw up regulations regarding self-driving cars within the next six months. In the meantime, the decision means that in cases where drivers are supposed to receive information from vehicle instruments, that information can instead go to the car's computer. The NHTSA said that it is still possible that the human passengers should get the same information.

However, Google opposes efforts to create cars with brakes and steering wheels and argues that allowing human drivers to override the judgment of the car's artificial intelligence creates a greater danger. This and many other issues will need to be ironed out, and the NHTSA says some regulations may have to be rewritten. In other cases, it may be possible to allow exceptions to some safety regulations. Google and other developers of driverless vehicles have said that federal and state regulations have slowed development.

It is predicted that self-driving cars will be much safer than those driven by humans. Each year, many people are injured in accidents in which other drivers are at fault. Whether those drivers are speeding, distracted or cause the accident for some other reason, if their insurance company does not pay a sufficient amount to cover medical expenses to the injured person, it might be advisable to have the assistance of a personal injury attorney in filing a lawsuit against the responsible motorist.

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