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Perils of self-driving cars apparent even as Google pushes on

As many California residents are no doubt aware, Google has been trying incessantly in recent years to get their self-driving cars on the road. That has led to plenty of testing on smaller roads, and much of the tests have gone perfectly. The cars they were using at the time were stock models from Toyota and Lexus. But Google has taken another step forward, releasing a Bug-like model that has no steering wheel, no brake pedal, and no gas pedal. It is driver-less in every way.

There are plenty of hurdles that still need to be cleared though. First of all, Google has admitted that their cars have been involved in some accidents -- though they are quick to point out that their vehicles were never at fault for the wrecks. Still, how does liability work in that situation? For that matter, how does insurance work with self-driving vehicles?

Another major issue here is that the self-driving cars from Google have had cozy testing grounds in Mountain View, California, where every inch of every road has been carefully mapped. So then the obvious question is, how would these vehicles handle the far busier confines of San Francisco or Los Angeles, or even a smaller city such as Stockton?

And then there are the technical questions. What happens if GPS fails? What is a person to do if an emergency situation arises, given that the vehicle has no steering wheel or pedals? How will this impact the car industry in general? Will other car manufacturers follow suit (they probably will)?

Self-driving cars are wondrous and intriguing, but there are still so many unknowns at this point -- with safety being chief among them.

Source: Slate, "Google's Fully Driverless Cars Are Ready for the Road. Well, Some Roads.," Will Oremus, May 15, 2015

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