After nine years with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Deputy Administrator Ron Medford is departing the agency to help Google put autonomous vehicles on public roads, legislation for which has been passed in Nevada and California.

Ron Medford will leave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in January to become Google's Director of Safety for Self-Driving Cars.

Medford was sworn in as the NHTSA's Deputy Administrator in January 2010, but served as Acting Deputy Administrator starting in January 2009 in addition to being the agency's Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety. In his vehicle safety position, Medford was responsible for overseeing the National Center for Statistics and Analysis and NHTSA Rulemaking, Enforcement and Applied Research programs.

Though Medford is eager to begin his work as Google's director of safety for self-driving cars, according to Motor Authority, he said he is "bittersweet" over the change. Medford vacates his post at NHTSA in January.

The development of safety and performance standards by states, along with Google's continued research and development, points to a future where people won't need a driver's license, some say. Most major vehicle manufacturers have shown interest in pursuing autonomous vehicle technology, including BMW, Audi and Volvo, all of which have invested in autonomous vehicle research over the years.  Semi-autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, pre-collision braking and self-parking demonstrate a trend toward the driver doing less and the car doing more.

Medford, who has been involved with the federal government for more than 40 years, was responsible for helping to develop fuel economy requirements and safety regulations. “While I am excited to embark on this new adventure, I am deeply saddened to leave this agency and the many incredible staff who have committed your lives to making people safer on our roadways,” Medford said.