Will driverless cars reduce drunk driving in Austin?

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The streets of Austin, Texas, are now the testing grounds of Google's self-driving car; however, don't expect to see the car, a Lexus SUV, motoring around the city with no one inside. According to Google, there will be two safety drivers inside that are trained to watch how the Lexus operates and if necessary, to take over driving.

Currently, the car is only allowed to go 25 mph on Austin city streets. These self-driving cars are designed to "drive conservatively," according to Google. In fact, the Lexus is programmed to wait a second and a half before proceeding through a green light.

The self-driving cars use software and sensors to move around other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. There are radars, cameras and lasers used to detect objects. The software will determine how and if the object will take some sort of action. Once that is done, it will choose "a safe speed and trajectory for the car."

The testing grounds in Austin are supposed to be north and northeast of downtown. The car's sensors and software will be used to create detailed maps of the streets, including traffic signals, lane markers, curb heights and more.

The Austin police chief said, "Keeping Austin's roads safe is one of our highest priorities, so we look forward to seeing how self-driving car technology might someday improve traffic safety. Technology that never gets distracted or tired or irritable behind the wheel could make a real difference."

Google believes these self-driving vehicles will increase safety on the roadways. It also claims that drunk and distracted driving will be a thing of the past.

There is still a good bit of time before consumers can begin purchasing such vehicles. There are also questions about liability when a self-driving car gets into an accident. This is one area of the law that will need to be dealt with before too many of these vehicles begin showing up on our roadways.

Source: Courthouse News, "Google Tests Driverless Cars in Austin," Ryan Kocian, July 10, 2015

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