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Mace & Crown | October 18, 2017

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Google's Self-Driving Car May Be Considered a Legal Driver

Google’s Self-Driving Car May Be Considered a Legal Driver
Morgan Engelhardt
Contributing Writer

Artificial intelligence may be considered a designated driver now, as Google’s self-driving cars may be street legal without the presence of a physical driver. Last November, Google submitted a design for a car that needs no driver since it drives itself. The car’s design includes sensors around the car that detect what’s around it — including curbs, pedestrians, cyclists and other people — or things that a normal driver would avoid in the car.

The Google Self-Driving Car Project also talks about how its software will “predict what all the objects around us might do.” This same software then determines what the speed limit is and drives passengers to their destination. This software would not only bring convenience to the general public, but would also be useful to citizens with disabilities or those unable to drive.  

The design for Google’s Self-Driving car have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, there are still some legal issues with the car’s design before it is allowed on the road. Federal regulations have stated that “equipment like steering wheels and brake pedals” would have to be completely redesigned in order for the car to avoid malfunctions without a human driver. Google has even suggested that the design not have a steering wheel or brake pedals at all since a drive will be missing from the driver’s seat. The Department of Motor Vehicles from several states all agreed that even if the design didn’t have these parts, there would still need to be extensive testing to make sure the car operates safely.

Google also has concerns about their own design that doesn’t have to do with the car, but the passengers that would be inside of it. Google has said that “the car might malfunction with an actual human being in the car, given that someone might attempt to override the AI within the car.” This error may occur because with the design of the car a human is allowed to sit in the “driver’s seat,” but cannot drive it themselves.

Some states’ DMVs have said that along with this issue, the possibilities of faults within the mechanics is another big issue. California has had the biggest issue with this car’s design. The California DMV has stated that “cars absolutely need a driver” and “insist that a fully licensed driver must be behind the wheel.”

This hasn’t stopped Google from production however, given that Google has expanded its search for engineers on Google.com. According to Chris Woodyard at USA TODAY, Google has posted “36 new jobs” to their site in the hopes of filling them for the self-driving project. Most of the jobs involve manufacturing, mechanical engineering and marketing. Google is even searching for new areas for new working locations, which could mean an expansion of the project and even more new hires.