Government Will Consider Google Computer to Be Car’s Driver

February 10, 2016 Updated: February 10, 2016

DETROIT—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.

In this May 13, 2014 file photo, a Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this May 13, 2014 file photo, a Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

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.

Images from Mars Trek online app. (NASA)