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Is New Haven ready for the driverless car?

Many New Haven residents know that a car can be harmless by itself, but when a negligent driver is behind the wheel, it can be as deadly as a gun. 4,000 pounds of metal at high speeds can cause menacing damage to both property and to a human. Factors such as distracted, reckless and drunk driving have killed countless people. But what if the driver was removed from the equation? Would a driverless car dramatically reduce the number of car accidents that occur each year?

What may seem like science fiction is becoming real life. Technology for a driverless car already exists and has been tested. Google and a handful of other companies have turned their attention to making driverless cars available to the public as soon as 2018. Not quite perfected yet, the driverless car has already logged 300,000 miles, 50,000 without a human operator. Imagine taking a nap on a commute to work or programming the car to go pick up a child from soccer practice. The possibilities and advantages seem endless. The car does have a few drawbacks, including its inability to distinguish traffic signs and failure to identify pedestrians.

Until this technology is perfected, humanity is stuck with the current dangers of the driver-operated car. A person can drive defensively and as safely as possible, but can never quite be safe enough from the dangers of a negligent driver. 90 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by human error. This could be anything from running a red light to speeding excessively. With a driverless car, many of these human errors can be avoided.

While it's still a long way off from becoming commercialized, will the driverless car replace the current automobile and reduce the amount of car accidents a year? New Haven residents may know the answer one day.

Source: PBS.org, "Are We Ready For Driverless Cars?," May 9, 2013

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