Big Picture View on Driverless Cars Coming to Showrooms

Google Driverless Prius

As dri­ver­less cars are being test­ed by Google, here are a few key points to think about:

• Auto indus­try exec­u­tive think that dri­ver­less cars being test­ed by Google won’t be pro­duced by automak­ers until 2025.

• For Lar­ry Burns, GM’s for­mer R&D chief and an advis­er for Google’s self-dri­ving car project, it’s his­toric in its dimen­sions. “This is the most trans­for­ma­tion­al play to hit the auto indus­try in 125 years,” he said.

• The tech­nol­o­gy is already being adopt­ed in bits and pieces – adap­tive cruise con­trol, traf­fic jam assist that auto­mat­i­cal­ly slow or apply brakes in cer­tain con­di­tions, lasers, telem­at­ics, and anti-lock brakes. Avoid­ing acci­dents is the cen­tral theme.

Google launched its autonomous car pro­gram in 2010, view­ing the prob­lem as one of com­put­er sci­ence. Google Exec­u­tive Chair­man Eric Schmidt said the com­pa­ny has not fig­ured out how it would bring its tech­nol­o­gy to mar­ket, but licens­ing it is an option.

• Automak­ers and reg­u­la­tors will have to win over a pub­lic that includes those who love to dri­ve or sim­ply wouldn’t trust their lives to a robot. Oth­ers, like long-haul truck­ers, could resist the tech­nol­o­gy for fear of job loss­es.

J.D. Pow­er and Asso­ciates found 37% of U.S. con­sumers it sur­veyed in March were inter­est­ed in autonomous dri­ving tech­nol­o­gy, but only 20% def­i­nite­ly or prob­a­bly would buy it at an esti­mat­ed price of $3,000.

• Even if the indus­try even­tu­al­ly wins the hearts and minds of most con­sumers, it also must estab­lish the infra­struc­ture that sup­ports self-dri­ving cars, includ­ing not only the tech­nol­o­gy but the nec­es­sary legal and lia­bil­i­ty frame­works.

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