Government will consider Google computer to be car’s driver

FILE - In this May 13, 2015, file photo, Google's new self-driving prototype car is presented during a demonstration at the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. The self-driving cars needed some old-fashioned human intervention to avoid some crashes during testing on California roads, the company revealed Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, results it says are encouraging but show the technology has yet to reach the goal of not needing someone behind the wheel. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

DETROIT (AP) – The federal government’s highway safety agency agrees with Google: Computers that will control cars of the future can be considered their driver.

The redefinition of “driver” is an important break for Google and a big step toward getting self-driving cars to the public. But the company still has a long journey ahead before the cars without steering wheels or pedals arrive in great numbers.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed with Google’s “driver” reinterpretation in a recent letter, it didn’t allow other concessions.

For instance, Google claimed the cars met requirements for foot or hand brakes because the electronic driver can stop them. But the government said regulations are clear and would have to be changed to allow that.

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