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Why self-directed cars will not be crowding roadways anytime soon

When individuals travel by airplane, train and boat, the captain or conductor of these vessels operates them. As a result, passengers are free to rest, read, visit and engage in behaviors unrelated to the operation of the vessel transporting them to their destination. Recent media attention paid to a BMW prototype and a Google self-driving vehicle have many Americans wondering if they will soon be able to “drive” their cars without operating them. Unfortunately, this technology is unlikely to affect many drivers anytime soon.

Self-driving vehicles are being designed and manufactured in small batches in order to study the viability of their operation. It is hoped that self-driving vehicles will eventually ease gridlock, make society more productive and reduce the rate of car accidents currently plaguing U.S. society.

However, this technology must be further developed, studied, tested and put on the road in small numbers before it can ever become main stream. In the meantime, car manufacturers are much more preoccupied with testing, studying and installing various autonomous driving components in their latest models. These features can help right swerving vehicles, alert drivers to nearby hazards and brake automatically in certain situations.

Considerable interest in autonomous vehicles exists. Especially because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that over nine in 10 accidents occurring today result from human error that autonomous vehicles would eliminate. However, for a myriad of practical reasons this technology is not likely to advance in significant ways that will impact the everyday American anytime soon.

Source: MIT Technology Review, "Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think," Will Knight, Oct. 22, 2013

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