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A new law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown will allow the presence of self-driving cars on the state's streets and highways. A number of companies have such radar-equipped vehicles in the works, using advanced technology to direct the car, avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians, and reach the desired programmed destination. The vehicles also utilize video cameras and lasers, all controlled by an onboard computer. The hope is that, by removing human drivers from the equation, there will be a reduction in the number of car accidents.

Whether that will be the actual result is purely speculative until the self-directed driverless vehicles have some track record and are in relatively widespread use for a significant period of time. Some other advanced technology, previously widely touted as the answer to reducing traffic accidents, such as lane-sensing devices, have failed to deliver a significant reduction in car accidents and their ensuing injuries and fatalities.

Proponents of the new vehicles contend, however, that human errors are responsible for most car accidents. They also argue that the fuel efficiency and level of carbon emissions of the vehicles will be improved and that communication between computer-directed cars will help eliminate some traffic jams.

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One of the main criticisms of the texting and driving laws being passed nationwide is that they can be hard to enforce. Not only is it difficult for law enforcement officers to detect and prove a driver's texting, but GPS methods of tracking cellphone use can't discern whether the phone user is a driver or passenger.

But a West Coast physicist may have found a solution. If proven effective, it could allow police and prosecutors to enforce texting bans and prove a driver was distracted in the event of a car accident caused by texting.

While thinking about ways to address the risk of his own daughters texting behind the wheel, the physicist wondered if the pattern of the texting would appear distracted if done by a driver. Tests showed he was right: The pattern of pushing buttons on a phone by someone who's driving is distinctly more chaotic than someone who's not distracted.

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If you break an arm or a leg in an accident, it takes little more than an X-ray to determine that injury before you're fitted for a cast and sent on your way out the hospital doors. Your bill may be high, but your injury is easily sized up and itemized.

This is almost never the case with a brain injury. It usually takes a lot of time and a battery of tests to even begin to pinpoint how your brain is affected by a collision with a windshield or a sidewalk. Our brains are so complex that almost no two injuries are alike, which can also make treatment a guessing game.

But a new tool aims to change that. Scientists are researching whether this MRI-based test can accurately diagnose a head injury and improve rehabilitation.

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In our last post we touched on the dangers that can arise from being distracted by a cellphone or other electronic device. But that hasn't stopped automakers from coming up with new reasons to take our eyes off the road.

Safety experts warn that "next-generation vehicles" allowing drivers to multitask could lead to even more car accidents. Features that were once only available in luxury models are now becoming standard features in lower-end cars. German manufacturer Daimer AG is working on technology that will allow drivers to read information on the windshield by waving a hand. Want to update your Facebook status? There's a steering wheel button for that. It's estimated that within five years, 90 percent of new cars will come equipped with Internet-connected features.

These advancements aren't thrilling officials at The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which recently proposed new dashboard technology guidelines asking automakers to ensure that the new systems are disabled once a vehicle is moving. But it would be surprising if they listened, given the race among car manufacturers to come up with technology to attract the "millennial generation" -- drivers ages 19 to 31, numbering almost 80 million. A recent survey found that 75 percent of these consumers want touch-screen technology in their cars and almost as many want apps in their dashboard.

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