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'Hands Free': Automakers Race to Next Level of Not-Quite-Self-Driving Cars


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A man behind the steering wheel of a self-driving car.

Auto industry executives are speeding up their plans to automate routine driving tasks.

Credit: General Motors/REUTERS

Auto industry executives are speeding up plans to automate routine driving tasks, aiming to make the technologies widely available within five years.

However, there are concerns about the lack of safety or performance standards to guide efforts to automate such things as highway driving, parking, and navigating stop-and-go traffic.

Some automakers are addressing liability concerns by installing cameras and warning systems inside vehicles to ensure drivers are prepared to assume manual control when necessary.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it continues to conduct research and collect data on hands-free technologies, but stressed that the technologies are "not sufficiently mature" to require formal federal standards.

Said Mark Rosekind of self-driving startup Zoox, "If people don't know what they've got and how it actually operates, that's a safety issue." Automakers contend that automated driving technologies will reduce the number of crashes and lower auto insurance rates.

From Reuters
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