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Race to Build Driverless Cars Is in Full Throttle

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A driverless car on the road.

Volkswagen is among the leaders in developing a driverless vehicle prototype.

Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

Google and other researchers claim they are just five years away from having all of the tools and the knowledge needed to market a fully autonomous vehicle.

"The days of human drivers deserve to be numbered," says Missouri University of Science & Technology professor Don Wunsch. "Humans are lousy drivers. It's about time computers take over that job."

Since 2011, California, Nevada, and Florida have enacted laws legalizing driverless vehicles, and Michigan, Oklahoma, and New Jersey have similar bills under consideration.

One Australian mining company has ordered 150 autonomous trucks for its operations, saving more than $100,000 a year on each driver it does not need to employ.

Google says its fleet of self-driven cars has logged more than 300,000 miles of testing without the computer systems causing a single accident.

Promoters of the technology say it could save on fuel use and make it so people require fewer cars; they also note that human errors account for nine out of 10 U.S. road fatalities.

Still, safety is a top concern. "You have these brand new capabilities coming to the market at a time of grossly inadequate funding" of federal safety regulators, warns the Center for Auto Safety's Clarence Ditlow.

From Associated Press
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