The U.S. government has decided to recognize the computer "brain" of a car rather than a human brain as the driver. This new regulation could be what it takes for society to accept the self-driving car, a concept unfamiliar, confusing and even frightening for many.
According to a Reuters report Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Feb. 4 approved a proposed vehicle design from Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google subsidiary for a car that has "no need for a human driver."
NHTSA "will interpret 'driver' in the context of Google's described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants," said the government agency in a letter posted on its Web site.
This issue of what is a "brain" when it comes to driving is important because of the many questions as to legal and financial responsibility for accidents in these self-driving vehicles. The auto industry has been urging regulatory bodies to revise and expand the rules.
Karl Brauer, an analyst for Kelley Blue Blook, said such new rules could "substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road." Nissan (NSANY) , for example, has said it will have such a vehicle on the road by 2020.
Currently, rules prescribing the way vehicles may operate legally on U.S. roads presume a human driver. Google, in December, expressed displeasure with California draft rules for autonomous cars that require a licensed driver to be in the front seat at all times. The draft rules were opened to manufacturer comment in January.