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The year is 2020, and it’s 7:45 on a rainy Monday morning, and you are in your car and on your way to work. You turn left, and then you turn right. A few minutes later, you stop at a traffic light. When the light turns green and there are no other cars in the intersection, you continue on your way. Ten minutes later, you arrive at work and you stop reading the morning paper. Then, you get out of your car and you say, “Thank you!” Your car replies, “You’re welcome!” This possible future may sound unreal, but in fact many car companies are already testing robotic cars, or ‘driverless cars’, on the roads today (although the cars don’t speak very much yet).
In the 1980s, Germany and the United States tested the first driverless cars, and by 2020 companies such as Volvo, GM, Nissan and BMW plan to sell driverless cars. Driverless cars are not really ‘driverless’ – the ‘drivers’ are computers that use radar, computer maps and other modern technology. They offer many advantages. Perhaps the most important of these is fewer deaths caused by road accidents. For example, in 1968 more than 53,000 people lost their lives in car accidents in the U.S.A. This number has fallen to less than 33,000 but it is still a high number. In addition, people will spend less time stuck in traffic jams and there will be no need for people to have a driving license. One of the major disadvantages of the new technology, however, is the cost. It’s not free. US$5,000 to US$10,000 is added to the price of a new car. Nevertheless, at some time in your life, you will probably be sitting in a robotic, driverless car on your way to work or on your way to school. The future is almost here. Are you ready for it?
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