Hal 9000 is the driver on your driverless car, agency rules

driverless carRiddle me this: Is there a driver of a driverless car? It may sound like a philosophical puzzle, like asking what is the sound of one hand clapping.

Yet it might be a big question for the future.

And a federal agency has an answer: Yes, there’s a driver. It’s the computer system.

At least, that’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Chris Urmson, director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project.

Google was concerned because of a lot of safety regulations on cars have been written with the assumption they would have human drivers, a steering wheel and a brake pedal on the left front, and so on. Future cars might not all work that way.

“We are taking great care to embrace innovations that can boost safety and improve efficiency on our roadways,” explained U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement Wednesday. “Our interpretation that the self-driving computer system of a car could, in fact, be a driver is significant. But the burden remains on self-driving car manufacturers to prove that their vehicles meet rigorous federal safety standards.”

If any of this makes you squeamish, don’t say anything around fictional spaceship computer Hal  from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He can read lips, you know.

As Hal put it,  “I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”




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