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Self-driving cars show how driving properly can be dangerous

New York residents are likely aware that companies such as Google and Tesla have been lauding the benefits of their autonomous driving technology. Proponents of the technology say that the widespread use of self-driving cars is inevitable and human drivers will be as rare on the roads of tomorrow as horses are on the streets of major cities today, but recent crash statistics have undermined this kind of thinking.

An October 2015 report from the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan found that autonomous cars were involved in accidents at twice the rate of vehicles with a human being behind the wheel. While some may point to these car accident statistics as evidence that self-driving technology is fatally flawed, it is not autonomous vehicles but human behavior that is blamed for virtually all of these crashes.

The problem appears to be that autonomous vehicles obey traffic laws at all times, which could never be said of human drivers. This is a particular problem when a self-driving car is entering a highway traveling at or below the posted limit when virtually all other traffic is speeding. Technicians at companies like Google are now faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to program their autonomous vehicles so that they also flaunt traffic laws.

This research indicates the frequency with which drivers disregard traffic laws. Dangerous habits such as speeding and tailgating cause thousands of injuries and deaths each year, and motorists who behave in this way may face both criminal and civil sanctions for their reckless behavior. Personal injury attorneys bringing lawsuits on behalf of those injured by negligent motorists may seek compensation for their clients' medical costs, lost income and property damage, and this litigation could be filed against the estates of the at-fault drivers concerned if they are killed as a result of the accident they caused.

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