Google Makes Case That Self-Driving Cars Should Be Legal If They Can Pass Road Tests

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Google has been heavily invested in its self-driving car program since 2009, and has made great strides in improving the technology it has racked up over a million miles of real world testing. The self-driving fleet, which includes various Toyota Prius, Lexus RX 450h and Audi TT models, until recently has a spotless driving record. Thanks to Google’s transparency with regards to its self-driving fleet, we were quickly alerted to the first at-fault accident involving an RX 450h in its test fleet.

But in the grand scheme of things, the fact we've seen only one accident - a minor one, at that - really highlights how reliable autonomous vehicles can be. If the other vehicle in question was also autonomous, would there have been an accident? Not likely.

But if Google's self-driving vehicles are so reliable, why is it taking the government so long to approve them for road use? Google would rather not wade through government bureaucracy and red tape, so it has penned a proposal that will hopefully allow autonomous vehicles to be federally approved for road use sooner.

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In the proposal, which was sent to top federal transportation officials, Google detailed a way to expedite the process, and notes that this proposal doesn't only apply to itself, but all companies that want to produce autonomous vehicles. Ultimately, it's argued that if an autonomous vehicle can be shown to drive as well as (or better) than human drivers, it should be allowed to use the same roads without impediments. It's hard to argue with Google’s reasoning, especially when it seems so likely that autonomous vehicles will save lives, rather than add to grim national statistics.

Even Tesla's Elon Musk pictures a future where regular vehicles are not even allowed on roads, because it will be definitively shown that the number of deaths are almost nil versus what we see today. This is an extremely important point when we consider the fact that distracted driving is increasing the number of road deaths reported annually, even after many states have adopted regulations to ban the practice.

Will Google succeed? Only time will tell. But Google is likely to face an uphill battle and will likely face criticism for “writings its own rules” on a matter that affects all drivers in the United States.