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Will self-driving cars make our roads safer?

Ten years ago, the idea of a self-driving automobile sounded like a fantasy, but today there are self-driving cars and trucks delivering people and products in some parts of the country. While there are very few self-driving cars on the road at this point, and they are still being tested and perfected, every month it seems like a new technology has appeared to make a world without human drivers more plausible.

Toyota's research and development wing, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), recently announced its latest self-driving technologies by revealing its driverless Lexus LS 600hL. The vehicle has powerful Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors, other cameras and radar sleekly incorporated into its design. TRI has named the new LIDAR-powered self-driving tech Platform 3.0 and has been featured in the latest CES technology show in Las Vegas.

Perhaps the most impressive feature is the LIDAR sensory system which can detect objects in a 360-degree radius with a range of 200 meters -- even when it's dark outside. Toyota says that the Platform 3.0 vehicle is "one of the most perceptive automated driving test cars on the road."

The question is: How safe is this vehicle? Can it avoid accidents with human-driven cars, or is it best equipped to navigate the predictable movements of other robot-driven vehicles. These and countless other safety questions abound whenever the topic of self-driving cars arises.

From a personal injury law perspective, we also have to wonder who will be liable when a self-driven car causes a crash. Clearly, this will happen at some point, but we may not know how courts will decide issues of liability relating to self-driven cars until an accident makes its way through the court system.

Until then, the best we can do is hope and dream that self-driving cars will bring an end to problems like distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, recklessness and other problems on the road.

Source: The Verge, "Toyota’s new self-driving car can ‘see’ up to 200 meters in every direction," Andrew J. Hawkins, Jan. 4, 2018

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