In the not too distant future, there will be self-driving cars on our highways. Nissan has joined GM, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo, and others including Google to put self-driving cars on the road soon, perhaps by 2020.That goal will be difficult to meet. The technology is basically ready, according to Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelly Blue Book. But there are challenges to overcome.
The Big Hurdles
- The issues that need to be addressed are primarily legal and insurance-related ones. Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer said “what we need now is regulatory changes.”
- Self-driving cars are already legal in California, Florida and Nevada. Self driving or autonomous cars present “a lot of legal issues” Brauer says.
- If an autonomous car gets into an accident with one driven by a human, who is to blame? How will insurance companies handle self-driving cars?
- Who is legally responsible for a self-driving car? Can minors now travel in self-driving cars without an adult?
Part of the solution, Brauer said, is getting the government to devise a standardized safety test for autonomous vehicles. That means lobbying legislators and the administration to change the rules while making sure there’s a system in place for handling problems that arise.
Challenging these cars are areas such as:
- The ability to navigate through tricky real-world situations, like detours or icy roads.
- When snow is on the road, the cars often have difficulty “seeing” the lane markers they use to stay correctly positioned on the roadway.
- The vehicles can become confused by quick changes in road conditions, such as accidents, detours, traffic cops with hand signals or construction zones.
Convincing Drivers to Give Up Control
Auto makers will have to convince humans to give up control.
- According to a recent KBB poll, 53% of Americans would never consider purchasing a car that drives itself around.
- Before Google revealed its robotic test car in 2010, self-driving cars seemed like a vintage type of science fiction.
- Premium vehicle owners were more embracing of self-driving cars and technology. These drivers are already accustomed to several “assisted driving” features like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control.
- Costs will need to come down significantly before these cars are widely purchased. Added sensors, software and computing requirements currently total more than $100,000 per vehicle.
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