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Accident involving self-driving car raises safety fears

Google has been one of the leading proponents of self-driving cars and autonomous vehicle systems, and the California-based company hopes that this kind of technology will one day make auto accidents caused by human error a thing of the past. Experts in the field understand that autonomous vehicle technology will not be widely accepted by the public until safety concerns have been overcome, and they are particularly worried about the negative publicity that would follow a fatal accident involving a self-driving car.

Such concerns once seemed unfounded, but a Feb. 14 car crash involving a self-driving vehicle has made them very real once again. An SUV featuring Google's autonomous technology was struck by a municipal bus near the technology company's Mountain View base, and it is the self-driving software and not the human being involved that has been blamed. According to Google, the SUV was struck because it expected the bus driver to slow down. The company says that changes have been made to the software that will prevent its autonomous vehicles from expecting such accommodations in the future.

Nobody was hurt in the Mountain View accident, but observers fear that an autonomous vehicle will be involved in a fatal crash. They point out that perfection is not possible and that artificial intelligence only has to outperform human drivers to be considered a success, but they fear that consumers will view self-driving vehicles coldly as long as any safety concerns linger.

California is one of the few states that allow self-driving cars to operate on public streets, and companies like Google have said that they will accept responsibility when one of their autonomous vehicles causes a crash. Personal injury attorneys sometimes conduct thorough investigations to determine the sequence of events prior to an auto accident, but this may not be required in cases involving self-driving cars due to the large amount of data recorded by these vehicles.

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