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The Promise of Self-Driving Cars

According to a report from the consulting firm KPMG LLP, the automobile landscape is poised for radical change over the next 25 years as autonomous vehicles become increasingly prevalent. We are already seeing the early phases of this transition as manufacturers introduce partial driver substitution technologies such as autonomous breaking. This video shows this technology at work preventing an accident while a father drops his daughter off at school.

KPMG expects that by 2025, all new cars will have autonomous capabilities, and it will be possible to retrofit existing vehicles. By 2040, we may see vehicles that communicate with each other - or even with "smart" infrastructure built into the road itself - in order to avoid accidents. All of this will result in incredible safety benefits, and KPMG predicts that the frequency of automobile accidents could drop by as much as 80 percent by 2040.

The legal and regulatory landscape will need to change to accommodate this technology. According to Gabriel Weiner and Bryant Walker Smith at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed or introduced bills related to self-driving vehicles. Despite this early legislative action, it is not yet clear how much responsibility will be placed on automobile manufacturers or technology firms when accidents are caused by autonomous driving technology. According to KPMG, the first litigation involving this question is likely to begin within the next few years.

Over 90 percent of accidents each year are caused by driver error, so the sooner we allow our cars to drive for us, the better. This technology has the potential to vastly improve our quality of life and reduce the human suffering caused by personal injuries and deaths on the roadway.

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