People ask me all the time - when will self-driving cars become a reality? We have the answers to this question and others about self-driving cars and are happy to share those.
The fact is, self-driving cars are a reality now. Today. Just about every major vehicle manufacturer and several technology companies are successfully testing self-driving technology today. Daimler-Benz is actually testing self-driving truck technology as well. The systems and technology that could make self-driving cars a reality are available and viable today. In fact, you can actually get some of that functionality in vehicles already at dealer's showrooms.
A number of companies including Toyota/Lexus and Ford already offer vehicles that can back themselves into a parking space. You simply push a button or set certain parameters and, moments later, you’re parked. The vehicle senses what’s ahead, behind and beside it and makes enough decisions to park itself with little or no human interaction. It even steers and some of these vehicles apply the brakes.
Speaking of which, cars also have automatic braking systems. For example, a number of cars have a radar at the front that senses an impending collision and can apply the brakes without the drivers interaction. New crash guidelines actually favor these systems so they will become ever more popular quickly due to the higher crash rating only going to a vehicle with such a system.
This is the sampler for a vehicle driving itself and while all automakers see this as the future, it scares the living daylights out of them. Why?
If a car is completely autonomous why own it? You simply whip out your smart phone and request a vehicle and, a few moments later, it shows up ready to whisk you away. Instead of paying for insurance on an expensive asset rotting in your garage most of the time you simply pay based on your personal usage. In other words, there would be zero incentive to own a vehicle.
Furthermore, self-driving vehicles don’t get distracted by cell phones or speed or need any parking spaces. They don’t park illegally, they don’t drive under the influence. In other words, self-driving vehicles don’t do anything that generates revenue for localities.
So to answer the question of when you will see self-driving vehicles, my prediction is that it’s going to be a long time from now. The technology and feature set will be available soon, but I betcha every locality that sees revenues drying up because people are doing fewer stupid things with their vehicles will suddenly find themselves passing laws to prevent self-driving cars as a “public safety” issue.
This means that self-driving cars might show-up in showrooms within 2-7 years but might be illegal all over the place. Think this is crazy? Consider how states have outlawed the Tesla because they don’t do things the way we've always done them and are cutting out a whole group of companies that line the pockets of politicians.
You will also see every ambulance-chaser finding any reason to dip into the deep pockets of the car companies. Someone has a self-driving car show-up 11 minutes late to an appointment? Lawsuit for loss of income. And don’t even mention a collision with a self-driving car - that will be like the busting open of a piñata for these leeches. So the attorneys at the car companies are already losing sleep over how many ways they can be sued and their counterparts in the real world are doing the same, wondering how they can sue.
The fact is, the biggest safety hazard on the road today isn’t self-driving cars - it’s cars that are driven by people. The biggest failure in the safety chain is the nut behind the wheel.
Nowadays so many accidents are caused by inattentive or distracted drivers. Kids acting up in the back seat, the cell phone ringing, a text message, a great looking woman bending over on the side of the road. There are so many reasons humans get distracted by anything other than the fact that they’re piloting two tons of steel hurtling down the highway at a mile a minute.
Self-driving cars will be far, far less likely to be the cause of an accident than a vehicle piloted by a human. The problem is, everybody thinks they’re a great driver but I bet that little scratch in the bumper wasn’t the result of a magic trick, was it?
The other argument is the one by auto nuts saying “but I love to drive.” As do I. But driving has absolutely lost its magic. With traffic, parking and all the other frustrations plus the little magic box that I bring with me that loves my attention I would rather let a machine whose sole focus is to drive do that task nowadays. I’ll keep a vehicle I enjoy for weekends and special occasions and the fact that I’m not using it for daily torture means it will last longer and cost me less as well.
So when will self-driving cars become a reality? Depends on your definition of reality. They will be in the showrooms in a few short years followed by a magical time where they won’t be illegal followed by years of inconsistent, stupid and punitive laws by localities who don’t want to see their incomes dry up ultimately concluded by a consistent group of federal laws making them fully legal. What say you to this? Would you be interested in advocating the legalization of self-driving cars to those whom you've elected to office?