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The ultimate cruise control: California OKs driverless cars

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that officially allows driverless cars on public thoroughfares. Driverless cars are coming, whether we like it or not, according to the Car Connection.

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California makes three, with Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C. set to become numbers four through seven on the list of states to allow self-driving vehicles on public roads.

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Our take

Autonomous vehicles are coming, whether we like it or not. Railing against them is futile: the genie is long out of the bottle.

Even now -- years before fully self-driving vehicles arrive -- autonomous technology is showing up in bits and pieces. That technology includes adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance, automatic braking, and other safety systems, which are key features on self-driving vehicles.

Autonomous technology stands to make roads safer, reducing accidents and auto fatality rates. The benefits increase exponentially as the technology rolls out to massive numbers of vehicles and roadway infrastructure, allowing cars, stop lights, and an array of sensors to "talk" to one another. Our vehicles will "see" accidents and other obstacles before we do, cutting the number of collisions and helping us get from Point A to Point B more safely.

In the same vein, autonomous vehicles also help improve efficiency. By gauging traffic flow, our cars will be able to route us to alternative transit routes. And by using "road train" technology like Volvo's SARTRE system, we'll even be able to move faster on freeways.

And let's not forget the millions of people who are unable to drive because of blindness or other handicaps. Autonomous vehicles will allow them a far greater degree of independence.

However, it's not all rainbows and unicorns in the land of self-driving cars. There are still a lot of details to work out and questions to answer -- questions we might not have considered yet. 

Apart from privacy issues, there's the question of fault. At a press event, Google's Sergey Brin was asked who's to blame when an autonomous vehicle runs a red light. Brin's response? "Self-driving cars do not run red lights."

Right. And HAL 9000 would never do anything to harm the crew of Discovery One. (Yes, we know that HAL 9000 is a fictitious character, but the same rules apply: denying the possibility of a problem isn't the same as solving it.)

Live in California? Are you happy about the possibility of seeing autonomous vehicles on your streets? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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