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Driverless Cars Get Ready to Hit the Road

In addition to other progress being made, the California DMV hosted a workshop with automakers to gather public input on how existing roadway rules will have to change to make way for driverless vehicles.

Driverless cars may still seem to be the stuff of science fiction, but the vehicles could debut commercially on public roadways as early as next year — and several states are preparing. The California DMV hosted a workshop with automakers in March to gather public input on how existing roadway rules will have to change in response. Issues of privacy, security, safety, liability, proper usage and standardization came to the forefront, with official regulations expected in early 2015.

Separate rules for manufacturer testing of driverless cars were adopted in May, the same month the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute broke ground on the U.S. DOT-funded Michigan Mobility Transformation Center. The $30 million simulated city, built like a movie set on 32 acres, will test connected vehicle and infrastructure technology to simulate crash scenarios in a realistic environment. Experts think connected driving environments could cut crashes by more than 80 percent.

But for all their promise, driverless cars represent a major new component of the Internet of Things, and are therefore raising concerns about their susceptibility to hacking attempts. Surveys show growing acceptance of the technology by the driving public, especially when coupled with a sharp decrease in auto insurance rates. But questions about how driverless cars can safely share the road with conventional vehicles will dominate the debate in coming years.

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