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Robot cars are coming -- and probably much sooner than you think.
While flying cars never took off and the Segway was hardly the game-changer it was hyped to be, cars that drive themselves are set to transform the way society gets from point A to point B.
Google got the ball rolling and is still the leader in the arena of autonomous vehicles (AVs), but every major automaker is working on an autonomous model. In fact, some self-driving functionality is already making its way onto showroom floors, and three states -- California, Florida and Nevada -- allow fully autonomous vehicles on public roads as of February 2013.
The timeframe varies, depending on which expert you ask, but they all agree the driverless car is coming. They believe that autonomous vehicles will save lives, cut commute times and improve mobility for the elderly and disabled.
Robot cars might even take a huge chunk out of your insurance bill.
Here are five reasons autonomous vehicles will be the new normal:
Robot cars are safer
Humans have severe limitations when it comes to driving a car. In 2011, a total of 32,367 people died in car accidents and 2.2 million more were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drinking was responsible for 9,878 deaths, and distracted driving killed 3,331 people.
Reduced crash rates and car-related fatalities are among the biggest benefits of AVs, says Alberto Broggi, a University of Parma professor whose driverless van
traveled 8,000 miles from Rome to Shanghai without incident in 2010.
Autonomous cars don't drink, are never distracted, have a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and never doze off.
Google robotics visionary Sebastian Thrun has predicted that autonomous vehicles will reduce traffic accidents by 90 percent. Other experts agree. In
American Scientist, Brian Hayes suggests that autonomous vehicles should aspire to match the death rates of commercial aviation putting fatal car accidents at 320 per year.
"There's one prediction about driverless cars that I can make with confidence: If millions of them ever roam the public highways, they will be far safer than cars driven by people," Hayes writes.