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Are driverless cars here to stay?

In many of the old movies and television shows, the future was depicted with flying cars and robot-controlled vehicles. We might not be there yet, but the future of transportation is certainly upon us. Although they haven't made it to the roads of Albany yet, driverless cars may be making their way into New York. What will that mean, however, for driver and pedestrian safety?

Car accidents can often be avoided when a motorist takes the time and care to drive safely. Many accidents are caused when drivers are operating their vehicles recklessly or have failed to pay attention to who is on the road. With the possibility of driverless vehicles, it calls into question whether the risk and rate of accidents will increase without a human being behind the wheel.

It is possible that a human driver's moments of inattention or carelessness will be eliminated by a vehicle that is driven by a computer. A computer will not need to be reminded to pay attention to and stop for a pedestrian crossing the road; nor will it start to speed or fail to slow when approaching a curve. The question remains, however, whether a computer will be able to completely take into account the numerous requirements needed for a safe drive.

Since the technology is still very new and only one state has allowed driverless vehicles on their roads, it is uncertain whether a computer would be able to stop in time for a child that runs into the street or to deal with other dangers associated with driving. In addition, who will be held responsible if a computer-driven car does cause an accident? Is it the person sitting in the driver's seat? Is it the owner of the car? The manufacturer? Until these questions and concerns can be answered, many people in New York will be watching the future of motor vehicles closely.

Source: Wired, "Google Goes to Washington to Lobby for Self-Driving Cars," Doug Newcomb, May 15, 2012

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