Federal transportation authorities recently indicated that they would consider Google's self-driving system to be the "driver" of its autonomous vehicles.
Reuters reported that the letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could help clear the way for federal approval of driverless technology.
"We agree with Google its [self-driving car] will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years," NHTSA Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh wrote to the company on Feb. 4.
But Hemmersbaugh also wrote that the agency would interpret the driver in Google's proposed design as the self-driving system and not “any of the vehicle occupants."
Analysts told Reuters that the clarification could overcome a substantial legal hurdle as regulators wrestle with rapidly advancing autonomous vehicle technology, although the NHTSA said that other language that applies to conventional cars — such as foot-operated braking — could pose continued problems.
"The next question is whether and how Google could certify that the [self-driving system] meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver," the agency added.
The Obama administration recently announced plans to develop a national standard for autonomous vehicles by the middle of the year. The Transportation Department also called for automakers to bring concerns about rules that conflict with self-driving technology to the agency's attention.