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Driverless, autonomous vehicles will change the world

The convenience of single-occupant motor vehicle is unmatched. With the development and proliferation of paved highways in the United States, in little more than a generation, there began a restructuring of the nation.

The car suburbs began to surround older urban centers in New York and New Jersey. One only has to look at auto-centric cities like Los Angeles or Phoenix and contrast them with older cities like New York or Boston. The car suburb arose, like New Jersey's Levittown.

Transportation was transformed and distance became a secondary consideration to "how long." But this convenience has not been without costs. Car accidents became commonplace and routine and traffic fatalities began to mount. By the 1960s, some years saw more than 50,000 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. And hundreds of thousands suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Cars have been made safer, as a means of protecting ourselves from ourselves, as 90 percent of car accidents are the result of driver negligence or error. Even with significant improvements in the safety of vehicles, the U.S. still averages more than 30,000 deaths every year.

The prospect of the driverless car may be our best hope to significantly reducing the death and carnage that occurs on the highways. Google has been testing an autonomous car for several years, and the vehicles are capable of operating safely on public streets with no input from the "driver," who in the public demonstrations Google has provide, appears to have been unneeded.

The Google vehicles are not anywhere near production ready, but when the technology arrives, it will likely have a significant impact on our transportation systems and, perhaps, how we live our lives. Undoubtedly, many may be granted additional time to ride in a vehicle where they are not the driver because they are not the driver.

Source: Fortune.com, "If driverless cars save lives, where will we get organs?" Erin Griffith, August 15, 2014

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