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Computers controlling self-driving cars are the drivers, says NHTSA

user: mariordo
Wikimedia Commons

Federal safety regulators have told Google the computer in their self-driving car can be considered the driver - in lieu of a human.

One analyst says that decision is a "launching pad" for the technology.

Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book says many regulations were written long before the self-driving car was a twinkle in Google founder Larry Page's eye. So recognizing the computer as the driver helps to make the technology feasible.

But, she says there are still big problems to solve. During a recent Volvo test in Sweden, ice covered the sensors of a self-driving car and rendered it essentially "blind."

""So we still haven't figured out the weather when it comes to autonomous vehicles!" she says.

Lindland says self-driving cars also can't yet adapt to other drivers the way humans can, citing a recent incident when a self-driving car attempted to enter a highway going 25 miles an hour, with a line of vehicles backed up behind it.  "That clearly is not safe," she says.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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