Our autonomous future: How driverless cars will be the first robots we learn to trust

Until recently, the concept of a driverless car seemed like the stuff of science fiction. But much has changed in just a few short years as the technology behind autonomous vehicles has taken huge strides. The cross-country driving Audi, powered by technology from Delphi, drove in autonomous mode 99 percent of the time.

The US federal government has also begun to embrace autonomous vehicles as a coming reality. In February 2016, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) announced that it considers the AI powering Google's driverless cars (which have already logged hundreds of thousands of self-driven miles) officially a "driver"—marking a groundbreaking moment in the history of transportation. And in September 2016, the DOT unveiled guidelines for the development of autonomous vehicles, calling it "the most comprehensive national, automated vehicle policy that the world has ever seen."

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The adoption of driverless vehicles has also come under scrutiny—most notably after the fatal accident that happened in May 2016 when Joshua Brown, operating his Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode, crashed into an 18-wheel tractor trailer. The incident highlighted the complex technological and social hurdles still facing the widespread adoption of driverless vehicles. Since then, Tesla has also released an update to Autopilot, which Elon Musk said would have likely prevented the accident.

Despite the debate, one fact is undisputed: Autonomous vehicles are here, and many more are coming.

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