NHTSA Says Computers are “Drivers”

The Obama administration, and US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, in particular, are huge fans of autonomous vehicles.

So it was nice to see the news that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration views Google’s self-driving cars as legal and safe, even without a human driver.

On a practical level, this seems like a big deal, but I can’t actually pinpoint how this will affect legal and regulatory disputes. My understanding is that most motor vehicle regulation in the US is done at the state level. So when a federal regulator (the NHTSA) and a state regulator (the California DMV) disagree on whether a self-driving car needs a human driver, does the state win?

Originally published at www.davidincalifornia.com on February 12, 2016.

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