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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