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This past year there has been a lot of buzz surrounding autonomous vehicles, which, along with alternative fuel, are being hailed as the next paradigm shift in personal transportation. While the technology is coming along nicely, it has also sparked a legal debate in recent months. 

If a computer-controlled car gets in an accident, who bears that liability? Is it the person who inputted the directions? Is it the company that engineered the car? Insurance companies and the NHTSA are saying that autonomous cars aren't going to be going anywhere until this gets sorted out, probably in the courts. 

Of course, that doesn't mean that none of this technology is marketable. Things like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, collision detection, etc. can be melded together to make a semi-autonomous vehicle that would still require human oversight. The driver would be there, theoretically paying attention and being liable for anything his or her car does, but the car would do most of the work. This is something that might be available in luxury cars in the next five years.

Related: Google Says Autonomous Cars are 3-5 Years Away, Insurance Companies and the NHTSA Disagree
Related: Oxford Researchers Have Developed a Much Cheaper Autonomous Driving System

[via Ward's Auto