A recent message from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to Google has allowed for the driverless car initiative to advance yet another step. The letter, written by NHTSA Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh, has stated that the regulatory body now considers the computer systems on board these vehicles to be the driver, according to Reuters.
While this hasn't completely cleared all the obstacles for mass deployment of driverless cars, this recognition from the NHTSA marks a giant development in the technology.
Huge leap forward for AI
This may seem like a simple development to some, as the computer is clearly the one piloting the vehicle. But the NHTSA's letter to Google shows that regulatory bodies are beginning to accept the real possibility of a future filled with self-driving cars.
The first perceived ramification of this correspondence is how blame will be distributed in the event of an accident. Although the letter itself doesn't discuss fault in detail, the fact that the NHTSA considers the car itself to be the driver means that occupants within the vehicle will not be thought to have been "behind the wheel" as it were when a crash occurs. In fact, Google and Volvo have gone on record stating they will accept full responsibility in the event of a wreck of one of their driverless cars.
What's more, these self-driving vehicles could severely reduce the number of accidents caused by human error. In fact, Google's cars may be too cautious. An early model of Google's car got stuck at a stop sign in 2009 because other human-driven cars refused to fully stop, forcing the car to wait until its safety programming told it to go. Something as simple as rolling through a stop sign is hard to program in a computer system, but this example points to the level of safety these vehicles observe on the road.
Still many obstacles to overcome
Although this is a great step for the driverless car industry, there are still many challenges to face before self-driving vehicles become a mainstay on the roads. One of the points of contention is that many drivers don't want to give up control of their cars. In fact, the letter reminds Google that there are many regulations in place that force auto manufacturers to put objects like steering wheels and foot brakes in their cars.
While these may seem like necessary pieces of equipment, Google doesn't like the idea of humans being able to take control whenever they so choose. The Reuters article pointed out that the NHTSA is fully aware of this concern, with the letter having stated that regulations will need to be changed if Google wants its cars to be entirely autonomous on the road.
There is still a long road ahead of Google before its car sees mass deployment, but this most recent development from the NHTSA shows that regulatory bodies are recognizing this technology's viability.
Cisco on the forefront of IoT development
Although this recognition of the status of self-driven cars is a milestone for the auto makers themselves, it also shows that the Internet of Things trend is gaining even more momentum. A driverless car would undoubtedly need an Internet connection – a technology that Cisco is working hard to continue to innovate.
With recent acquisitions and the Internet of Everything initiative, Cisco is showing serious interest in the prospect of connecting everyday items. In fact, an infographic created for Wired by Cisco discusses some of the benefits of a connected car.
The graphic states that these cars would be able to "talk" with the computer systems at mechanic shops, telling them about issues with the car's functionality before they become serious problems. This would allow for driverless car manufacturers such as Google to further point out the safety benefits of their vehicles, as a human driver would almost never be able to know about a mechanical problem before it began to affect their driving.
Cisco has long been known for its networking capabilities, so it makes sense that the company would make a move into the IoT. While it's impossible to say what technology will go into the future of driverless cars, it's clear that Cisco is doing everything it can to place itself within this revolution.
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