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Federal regulators say self-driving car systems are drivers

Self-driving cars could soon be seen navigating New York City streets, thanks to an important decision by federal safety regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it would be willing to call the self-driving vehicle system that was designed by Google a "driver". The decision could clear away some of the legal obstacles that have kept autonomous vehicles from being widely used.

The announcement by the NHTSA was made in a letter that it sent to Google on Feb. 4 and then posted on its website. The letter was a response to a proposal about a driverless vehicle that was made by Google's self-driving car unit. Google described a car that would not require a human driver and told the NHTSA that a self-driving car would actually become more dangerous if a human was able to take control of it.

Though the NHTSA said that it would consider a self-driving system to be a viable alternative to a human driver, there are still regulations in place that will prevent autonomous vehicles from being used. The NHTSA said that federal vehicle safety regulations that require things like foot-controlled braking systems in cars won't be waived right away. Google must first demonstrate that its self-driving computer system meets the same safety standard that human drivers must adhere to.

Until the day arrives where autonomous cars are the norm, driver error will continue to be the cause of car accidents that result in serious injuries. A person who has been injured in a collision caused by a distracted, impaired or otherwise negligent driver may want to have legal assistance in seeking compensation for the medical expenses that have been incurred and wages that have been lost.

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