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Imagine a world without road traffic accidents, where you can drink as much as you want and still drive home and where you no longer have to endure mind-numbing traffic jams. This is the vision put forward by some of the leading minds in the automotive industry, but could this futuristic technology really be about to become a reality?

Vehicle manufacturers have been pursuing this concept as far back as the 1950s, such as General Motors’ Firebird II and Cadillac Cyclone, but more than half a century later and we are still the ones with our hands on the wheel; in fact industry insiders don’t envisage a fully autonomous vehicle until 2025. So how far have we come in the quest to develop self-driving vehicles?

The Future is Now

Despite the prediction that it will be another 13 years before we see fully-automated vehicles, we are beginning to see a number of new features introduced by manufacturers that take some of the responsibility away from the driver and drag our driving experiences into the 21st Century.

For example, the Ford’s 2013 Fusion model will include a lane-keeping aid system, an active park assist function, adaptive cruise control as well as collision warning to help you stay safer on the road. There are multiple manufacturers developing these technologies including Honda, Mercedes and Nissan, and GM believes that semi-autonomous vehicles will be more widely available come the middle of this decade.

The Argument Against

You may be wondering how anyone would oppose a technology that could potentially make a large dent in the RTA casualty figure, but there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. First and foremost, manufacturers must overcome the natural inclination to not put their lives in the hands of a computer. It is likely that even if statistical evidence showed automated vehicles were safer than human drivers, we would still have concerns over their safety.

A study carried out by consulting firm Accenture found that less than half of British and US consumers would feel comfortable in a self-driving car, while costs will have to be managed before they can be considered a viable option for the majority of drivers.

Another valid cause for concern comes from the industries that rely on drivers, such as haulage and public transport, which could suffer massive job losses if the technology made human drivers obsolete (though even aircraft that utilise computers for most of the work require human oversight).

Of course, there is one other reason that people may recoil in horror at the idea of self-driving cars, and it could well be the same reason you’re reading this article in the first place – you love driving. It may be a chore for a lot of us, but for many driving is a passion and a hobby that they won’t want to sacrifice. After all, why would you spend thousands of pounds on a performance vehicle only to sit back and let the computer have all the fun?

Despite the concerns of motorists and career-drivers, the major manufacturers are pouring millions of dollars into the research and development of these technologies, as well as computing giants Intel who are setting aside a $100 million fund for investment into autonomous vehicles.

Regardless of how you feel about self-driving vehicles, automated features aren’t going away, and it is likely that we will begin to see more and more of these features in modern vehicles as the technology develops.

This guest blog was written by John Rooney on behalf of Insure 4 a Day, providers of temporary car insurance for men, women and super-computers.