By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s no one behind the wheel, and that just might be OK. Transportation safety regulators tell Google that the computer at the helm of its car could be considered a driver under federal law.

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In a response to Google’s proposed design for a self-driving car with “no need for a human driver,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the artificial intelligence system could legally replace what NHTSA calls the “driver in the traditional sense that vehicles have had… during the last more than one hundred years.”

Still, NHTSA asks “whether and how Google could certify the Self-Driving System meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a human driver.”

There are, of course, other considerations:

“I think a good part of it is trust, right? I mean, look, I’m okay driving now. Why do I need something to drive for me?” said Dave Kelleher, President of David Auto Group in Glen Mills, Delaware County.

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“Don’t discount the American public’s love for driving — the pure passion of driving,” said Kelleher.

Google’s approach would delete a steering wheel, pedals, and rearview mirrors. NHTSA says that raises “novel issues” and that the company “may wish to reconsider” that those components “may never be needed in any circumstance, and that there is not a risk of harm associated with their absence.”

The administration has said it will release guidelines for self-driving cars by the middle of this year.


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