This week, Nissan announced its ambitious goal of putting self-driving cars on the market by 2020.
There are various challenges (technological and legal), but if the automaker pulls it off, a lot of people will benefit.
Commuters will be able to work or sleep instead of watching the road.
Everyone will breathe cleaner air, because computers are more efficient drivers than humans. Without human error, car crashes could become a thing of the past.
But the biggest advantages may be for the elderly and handicapped. They are among the most likely to be unable to drive, who may also benefit the most from having access to a car.
Autonomous cars will "make people more independent," Maarten Sierhuis, the director of Nissan's Research Center in Silicon Valley, said.
They can make getting to the doctor, the grocery store, the grandkid's birthday party, wherever, easy and safe.
Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, compared the self-driving car to "a personal/public transportation system in one." It's like having a better version of a public bus in your driveway, he explained in an interview.
You don't need to operate it, it takes you exactly where you want to go, and it's right by your front door.
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