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Report: Self-driving cars could significantly reduce auto accidents

A recent study shows the potential self-driving cars have to reduce serious and fatal auto accidents across the U.S.

A recent study from a New York-based consulting firm has found that self-driving vehicles have the potential to eliminate up to 90 percent of all car accidents in the United States - and it might not be very long before the technology becomes widespread.

According to the report, it's possible for auto-piloted motor vehicles to become the norm within the next 15 years, potentially saving thousands of lives and reducing damages by about $190 billion per year. The study was based on interviews with some of the leading officials in the automotive and technology industries, and it found that self-driving cars have become a significant focus for automakers both in the U.S. and around the world.

As Nasdaq reports, more automakers have implemented innovative safety equipment into their vehicles in recent years, with just over 8 percent of 2014 model-year cars coming with lane departure prevention mechanisms. In addition, just over 10 percent of these vehicles had blind-spot alert technology. These numbers are expected to grow significantly in the next few years.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is already reporting some impressive results from these efforts, estimating a 14 percent decrease in accident claims related to vehicles with automatic braking. Even when these cars are involved in crashes, the damage tends to be lower compared to vehicles without the technology.

The potential for self-driving cars to reduce auto accidents is even more apparent when one looks at the data on what causes most crashes today. According to Consumer Reports, which cites data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 90 percent of all car accidents are the result of driver error.

Self-driving cars in practice

So how does this technology work? One of the most promising capabilities has to do with vehicles "looking" forward down the road using a technology called forward-collision warning. The system constantly calculates the risk of colliding with a vehicle in front of it, pre-charging the brakes and tightening seatbelts if it detects a crash is possible. Blind spot monitoring is another key technology, as it reduces the likelihood of drivers changing lanes and hitting another vehicle simply because they do not see it.

Other pieces of technology with enormous potential include adaptive cruise control, which helps drivers maintain a safe distance between themselves and the vehicles in front of them, and pedestrian detection, which recognizes if there is a person in front of the car and applies the brakes to avoid a collision.

Although critics are quick to point out that this recent study's prediction of most vehicles on the road being auto-piloted by 2030 is too optimistic, the overall trend is pointing toward the more widespread use of technology to make vehicles and their drivers and passengers safer.

Keywords: self-driving cars, auto accident

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