Automobiles are getting smarter, and it's possible that cars may be able to handle most of the driving duties in the not-too-distant future. Are motorists ready to enter that reality? The U.S. Department of Transportation is curious to find out, and tests are about to get underway to find out how much faith motorists can comfortably put in the hands of an autonomous vehicle.

Researchers for the DOT are heading out to the racetrack – not to post fast lap times, but to gauge driver and passenger reactions to safety equipment designed to intervene when necessary. The custom vehicles contain equipment that allows them to "talk" to each other. This relay of data lets one car know what the other is doing. If one car sees that it's on a collision course with another, it can initiate a panic stop and avoid an accident. The DOT wants to find out how motorists react in situations where their cars jump in to save the day.

Testing will take place in cities around the country. The results of this research will be shared with Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. While testing in the States gets moving, automakers are conducting further testing elsewhere in the world. Automated cars are set to take over the streets of Frankfurt, while other driverless vehicles tackle racetracks in Belgium.

Our own Damon Lavrinc recently got a taste of the automated action when he sampled the BMW Track Trainer.

Are you ready for a world of automated vehicles? Sound off in Comments.

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