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Self-Driving Cars On The Way

Google Self-Driving Car

If you live in Southern California you’ve heard about them repeatedly. Maybe you’ve even seen them. Self-driving cars. The sight of them can be alarming: “What? Those cars are moving faster than I am, are about three to four feet apart, and the drivers are READING THE NEWSPAPER?” Google has been developing autonomous cars that will hopefully decrease the worry of serious accidents as well as gridlock woes. These self-driving cars took another big step towards everydayday reality when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that paves the way for their full legalization.

 

Why Autonomous Vehicles? 

The main argument in favor of cars that drive themselves is safety. Drivers make mistakes behind the wheel, are easily distracted, get sleepy, and unfortunately, drive while impaired. 

The other big argument in favor of self-driving cars is economics.  According to national highway statistics, injury accidents cost Americans around $300 billion dollars annually. And then there’s the cost of fuel and lost productivity (another more than $100 billion a year) from sitting in traffic. The average commute is 50 minutes, each way. To go a distance that would probably take you less than 20 minutes in the middle of the day. Imagine jumping in your car and telling it, “Take me to work.” and then diving into work on your tablet or smartphone while the car takes you to work in 20 minutes. Sound like a dream? It isn’t.

Here’s why: With such readily available technologies as GPS, adaptive cruise control, lane maintenance, collision avoidance, and two-way inter-vehicular communications, sitting forever in traffic can be a thing of the past. Auto-pilot cars will never forget to signal a lane change. They’ll never get tired or cranky. They’ll never have reaction times dulled by a hard day at the office. And, since they’ll all be talking to each other, you won’t have them almost stopping on the freeway to change lanes to exit. 

 

They’re Almost Here

Unfortunately, you can’t run out to your local car dealer and even reserve one of these to put in your driveway. Some analysts are saying we’ll see the first commercial version of these cars in somewhere between three and five years. Others, maybe being a little pessimistic, or realistic, are saying we won’t see them for another eight years or so. However, the technology they’re based on has become available in a greater number of cars, even down-market. Subaru’s EyeSight technology makes collision avoidance easily affordable.

 

More Benefits of Adopting When Available

Remember when things like airbags and the electric vehicle came out? If you bought a car with airbags, your car insurance premiums went down. Right? And, if your health insurance provider heard about it, you may have even saved a little there. And that hybrid or electric vehicle allowed you, as a single vehicle occupant, to drive in the HOV lanes, without worrying about a ticket.

You’re going to see the same sort of benefits when the first automatic cars come out. States will grant their owners permission to drive alone in HOV lanes, and, because you’ll be less likely to get into an accident, serious or otherwise, you’re going to save a good chunk of change on your car insurance premiums, whether you pay monthly or annually. 

 

They’re Already Legal in Three States

California joined Nevada and Florida in legalizing autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads. Governor Brown signed the legislation that mandates the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles to come up with regulations governing their use. Google has logged more than 300,000 miles in their autonomous Prius hybrids and Lexus RX crossovers. Stanford has also done extensive research, partnering with Volkswagen and Audi on the technology.