Vehicle crash avoidance systems live up to the hype and save lives, according to two new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, another study by the same organization shows that some drivers become too reliant on the warning systems, get distracted by the systems' dashboard displays or choose to turn the warning systems off because they find them annoying.

In the first study, researchers collected police-reported crash data from 25 states involving vehicle models that offered lane departure warning systems as an option. They found that the technology reduced the rates of single-vehicle, head-on and sideswipe accidents by 11 percent, and, when crashes did occur, it reduced the number of injuries by 21 percent.

The study also found that lane-keeping systems cut fatal crashes by 86 percent, but Jessica Cicchino, vice president for research at IIHS, explained that that number may be high because of the study methodology that was used. The data, which was from 2009 through 2015, only contained 40 fatal crashes. As a result, researchers chose not to control for factors like a driver's age, gender or insurance risk.

However, Cicchino said that even a 50 percent reduction in fatal crashes involving lane changes would be significant. Currently, 25 percent of all fatal crashes involve vehicles that have veered from their lane. IIHS estimates that 85,000 crashes would have been prevented in 2015 alone if all vehicles had lane-keeping warning systems installed.

Cicchino said that the study provided the "first evidence that lane departure warning is working to prevent crashes of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads."

Meanwhile, a second IIHS study discovered that blind-spot detection systems dropped the rate of all types of lane-change accidents by 14 percent. When a lane-change accident did occur, injuries were reduced by 23 percent. The study estimated that there would be up to 50,000 fewer lane-change accidents per year if all vehicles were equipped with blind-spot detection systems.

While this news proves that collision warning systems do indeed make U.S. roads safer, drivers still need to make some improvements in the ways that they use the auto safety technology. For example, another study by IIHS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab discovered that car owners with parking assist systems spent 46 percent of the time staring at the dashboard display while their vehicle was helping them park. In comparison, drivers only looked at the dashboard display 3 percent of the time when not using a parking assist system.

Further, drivers that ...
It's very likely you've seen one of the many news headlines touting the rapid development of self driving vehicles. Companies like Google, Ford, GM, and others are working towards making vehicles that require no human control at all, and they're getting close to a product good enough to be sold to consumers.

Just last year, in March of 2015, Delphi successfully completed the world’s first 3500-mile cross-country trip of an autonomous vehicle, and did so safely, with no incidents or collisions. This was achieved with a modified Audi SQ5. There were several people in the car the entire time, monitor the journey and how well the new tech performed in a variety of traffic scenarios. Even though it wasn't ever a problem, there was someone in the drivers seat, ready to take the wheel if need be.

Ford has made the prediction that within 5 years, at least one company will have a self driving vehicle ready for sale. With four years left to go on that time line, it's seems as though it might happen even sooner than previously imagined.

The current best selling electric car in the US, Tesla's Model S, had an available upgrade that allows for computer assisted driving. It's not full-form autonomous driving, but it's very close. The drive can let of the wheel, and the car can brake, accelerate, steer, and even change lanes without any input from the driver at all. It's suspected that the ability for these cars to become fully autonomous is nothing more than a software update away, but with many states not having clear laws on the subject, the manufacturer is playing it safe, and keeping within the confines of the laws that are currently in place.

Which then raises the question about what laws will be needed when more of these self-driving vehicles become available. What happens when there's an accident? Who is at fault? Is the person behind the wheel held responsible, even though he or she wasn't the one controlling the vehicle? Or is it the fault of the manufacturer, who wrote the software that was driving the car? These aren't questions that the law has answered yet, and there will be a lot of debate over how these situations should be handled.

Admittedly, to date, there has only been one single accident involving an autonomous vehicle, and was a collision between one of Google's AV test ...
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