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Federal Government Says Computers in Self-Driving Vehicles Are “Drivers”

It’s possible that the nature of motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents and motorcycle accidents, may change in the future now that the federal government has declared that computers and software systems used by self-driving vehicles can be considered “drivers.” This is an important declaration because it means that autonomous driving — without an actual person in control of the vehicle — could soon be a reality on U.S. roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation that is in charge of regulating cars, trucks, motorcycles and other motor vehicles, issued the groundbreaking statement in a letter to Google. The massive technology company had sought a clarification on how federal auto safety rules apply to self-driving cars. Google is currently developing a self-driving vehicle that moves despite not having a steering wheel or pedals.

The NHTSA indicated that as far as federal auto safety regulatory rules are concerned, the government will treat the self-driving system (SDS) as a driver, as opposed to considering one of the vehicle occupants as the driver. In the letter sent by the NHTSA to Google, the federal agency states that “it is more reasonable to identify the ‘driver’ as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving.”

Of course, the introduction of self-driving cars onto roads could create a major safety concerns for motorcycle riders, many of whom are at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries in an accident because they are unprotected by airbags or the body of a car. However, it is also possible that self-driving vehicles will minimize the dangers for motorcyclists who will no longer have to rely on a car’s driver to take notice of the smaller bikes on the road.

For additional information, read the article, “Feds Say They’ll Count Computer as Human Drivers.”


If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should contact an experienced attorney who is passionate about fighting for the rights of riders. Andrew S. Prince of Team Law will work tirelessly to secure you the maximum compensation possible in your personal injury lawsuit.