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October 25, 2012

Say Goodbye to the Chauffeur and Hello to Automated Cars

By Tabitha Naylor, Contributing Writer

A few days ago, an Obama Administration Safety Official said that, as the government prepares to launch a research initiative to determine the safety and reliability of automated driving technologies, cars that drive themselves may hold the potential to save thousands of lives.

In an industry gathering, sponsored by Swedish automaker Volvo and the Swedish Embassy in Washington, David Strickland, Head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, stated that in car technology, automated vehicles are the next "evolutionary step". Before automated cars can be safely introduced to consumers, his agency has held extensive discussions with automakers and Google (News - Alert) about what needs to happen.

Image via Shutterstock

"Automated vehicles offer an important and challenging method for reducing crash risk that we believe holds great promise. We have the chance of saving thousands of lives as cars in use today are replaced with automated vehicles," Strickland said. He noted that in 2010, of the over 33,000 traffic deaths recorded, human error was a factor in about 90 percent.

Google is developing a fleet of automated vehicles. Most auto manufacturers are moving in that direction as well. On their roads, three states; Nevada, Florida and California, have authorized testing of automated cars. In several other states and the District of Columbia, legislation has been proposed.

Strickland mentioned that the kinds of automated cars Google and most automakers envision eventually bringing to market, involve the driver ceding control of the vehicle to its computers, feet off the pedals and hands off the wheel, but still remaining ready to retake control, if necessary.

He concluded by stating that at this time, they know of no such vehicle being designed for civilian highway use however, this may be the logical outcome at some time in the future, for all the current efforts that are underway by manufacturers and other non-automotive company providers.

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