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Do the brakes need to be tapped on self-driving cars?

If you're a forward-thinking person who is an avid self-driving car enthusiast, you might want to temporarily park visions of partying soon in the back seat of a driverless vehicle.

Here's why: Empirical evidence points to accident risks involving autonomous cars that are far higher presently than a trusting public assumes.

Actually, and to be strictly accurate about public trust concerning self-driving vehicles, it isn't exactly off the charts. The organization American Automobile Association stresses that only about 12% of motorists recently surveyed cite a meaningful comfort level when behind the wheel.

The unease is easily explained by key research results in a recently authored AAA study. That work centered on real-world (not closed-track) driving, examining results linked with programs such as BMW's Active Driving Assistant Professional, Cadillac's Super Cruise and Subaru's EyeSight Suite.

The bottom line: All those self-driving programs lack consistent safety-enhancing results for vehicle occupants entrusting their lives to evolving next-stage policy. As noted by a national publication examining the study, AAA's recommendation is to "increase the scope for active driver assist systems and limit their rollout until functionality is improved."

Evaluators' take on the various on-board technologies being tweaked is that they work fundamentally better in the above-cited closed-track environment. That realm doesn't have distracted drivers suddenly veering wildly out of control or risk enthusiasts pushing the speedometer to the 120-mph range. Blissfully unaware children don't suddenly dart into traffic chasing balls. Dogs don't fall out of pickup trucks.

AAA sums up the current state of autonomous driving via this statement: "It's a dangerous scenario if a driver has become disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system."

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