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Whether the classic DeLorean from “Back to the Future” or Spinners in “Blade Runner” — flying cars have become synonymous with visions of the future, progress of technology and a joke amongst skeptics. Yet, recent announcements from the world of plenty has made cynics and technology enthusiasts alike listen up to the sound of a new wave immerging slowly, but surely.

Optimus Prius

Google’s Toyota Prius still requires four wheels and roads, but one thing it can do without: a driver. PC World says the vehicle uses an array of modern technology such as on-board cameras, lasers, radar and other sensor equipment, which enables the vehicle to assess its path and operate completely on its own.

The ripple effect driver-less vehicles will have on legislation around the world, road-safety standards, congestion and parking issues and even insurance will be significant. Car insurances which reward safe drivers and additional safety features in cars will have to rethink their policies. With precious on-board technology it’ll be key to have comprehensive insurance like Budget Direct’s Gold comprehensive coverage to protect the value of the vehicle.

Looking at the average number of road fatalities the advantages of leaving driving up to a computer instead of relying on human decision making are apparent. Every year, 1 million people worldwide are killed in car accidents and most accidents occur due to human error, whether it be from accidents caused by slow drivers to high speed collsions and all else inbetween. Driverless cars are often marketed as a safer means to travel and some companies have lofty goals of reducing that number with their technology. Being involved in any form of auto accident is not something that anyone should have to go through, but unfortunately it does happen. In PC World, Google CEO Sergey Brin says the advantages are obvious.

“Computers and other on-board equipment will make vehicles safer than having humans drive, since people sometimes make errors, lose concentration, fall asleep or drive drunk,” Brin was quoted as saying.

In addition to causing fewer accidents vehicles will also drive a lot more fuel-efficient.

From Drivers to Operators

Google’s advances in technology of supporting self-driving cars are not just a picture of a distant utopia. In fact, recently the company helped pave the way for changing Californian legislation allowing computer operated vehicles to drive on local roads. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed the new legislation at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The bill redefines the term “driver” to “operator” and allows self-driving vehicles to roam on California’s roads. Whether other states or countries will follow suit shortly remains to be seen. The legislation does, however, determine the operator of the vehicle will still need to be able to intervene in situations that are too difficult for a computer to assess such as changes in traffic due to construction zones.

While Google is still working on improving the system and further increasing safety standards, which Brin admits is key to making the technology work, the changes of legislation are crucial, given Brin’s ambitious timeline. The CEO is quoted as predicting self-driving vehicles will enter Californian traffic within the next five years.

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