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Self-driving cars get a reality check

It may be a while before Minnesota drivers share the road with fully autonomous vehicles that guide themselves without human assistance. Even as companies such as General Motors, Intel, Google, Tesla, and Uber invest billions of dollars into the research and development of self-driving technology, current forecasts that suggest highways will soon be filled with autonomous vehicles might be a few decades off.

For tech entrepreneurs such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the future of self-driving cars cannot get here fast enough, and the same goes for auto insurance industry executives who praise the safety record of the prototypes tested thus far. Google's autonomous vehicles have driven than 3 million miles with only a couple of accidents. This is certainly promising in a country where 100 people are estimated to die in traffic accidents each day.

Auto industry analysts believe that Tesla will manufacture a fully capable autonomous vehicle within a few years, but this does not mean that self-driving vehicles will rule the road anytime soon. A similar situation has been experienced with fully electric vehicles, which are not selling as quickly as expected due to issues with pricing, charging stations and overall mistrust by seasoned drivers.

Car accidents will likely be reduced significantly thanks to autonomous vehicles, but the possibility exists that the software will malfunction. If and when it does happen and it results in an accident, occupants of the self-driving vehicle as well as those in other cars may suffer serious injuries. An attorney representing an injured victim might pursue damages from the developer, designer or manufacturer.

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