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Google hits milestone as US designates driverless cars as legal drivers

Google’s journey on the long road to driverless cars has passed a significant milestone after the US government formally acknowledges its automated driving system as a legal driver for the first time.

The move clears the way for Google to press ahead with a roll-out of the technology with firm legal backing of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which had previously restricted such definitions to humans only.

The Federal government outlined their shifted stance in a letter responding to a petition instigated by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving division, which confirmed that it would now interpret existing law as pertaining to automated vehicles.

Outlining this stance Paul Hemmersbaugh, NHTSA chief counsel wrote: “If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving. In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the self-driving system, is actually driving the vehicle.”

This is good news for Google which had previously suffered a setback when California published a draft law prohibiting the use of driverless vehicles.

John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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