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Public remain skeptical about self-driving cars

Several car manufacturers have promised to introduce a fully autonomous car within the next five years, and many models currently on sale are equipped with autonomous and semi-autonomous accident prevention systems. However, the results of a recent poll conducted by the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and the research firm J.D. Power and Associates suggest that drivers in South Carolina and around the country remain skeptical about the safety benefits of self-driving cars.

More than 40 percent of the poll's respondents said that they would never travel in a self-driving car, and 15 percent felt that a fully autonomous vehicle would never be sold in the United States. These results raise questions about the reliability of earlier studies that predict self-driving cars will be used to take about a quarter of all trips in American within 10 years.

Noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader is also urging lawmakers to approach autonomous vehicle technology with caution. Nader cited recent fatal car accidents involving self-driving vehicles in an open letter to lawmakers and criticized what he called a reckless push to adopt the technology before it is fully tested. However, these concerns do not seem to be giving carmakers and technology companies pause. Industry experts say that about $100 billion will be invested in autonomous car development in the coming decade.

While debates over the safety benefits of self-driving cars will likely continue for some time, the data gathered by autonomous systems is already providing crucial evidence to accident investigators and personal injury attorneys. The sensors, cameras and radar arrays fitted to autonomous vehicles constantly monitor road conditions and driver input, and this data is then stored on black box-type devices under the hood. This information may then be retrieved to find out what took place prior to a collision and reveal whether or not negligent behavior played a role.

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