The buzz surrounding Google’s Self-Driving Car has left consumers wondering when this exciting new technology is hitting the road.
According to Larry Burns, former head of Research and Development at General Motors, self-driving cars are approaching very quickly.
“We’re in this 5 to 10 year window when it’s going to be really exciting… By 2020 we’ll have self driving cars,” he estimates.
Burns attended the University of Michigan’s Robotics Day and told students and attendees that heavy competition is strongly pushing automakers towards automated driving technology, but there are large political hurdles to cross first. A whole new set of laws and liability issues needs to be devised before consumers will be allowed to purchase their first truly auto-pilot vehicle.
“We’re going to have to have policies and laws to figure out whose liable when driving this car,” says Burns, whom was recently honored with membership to the National Academy of Engineering.
Many of the technologies present in concept self-driving cars have already been incorporated into modern cars today, such as adaptive cruise control, lane assistance, parking technologies, and rear/forward collision avoidance systems. Combine these technologies with cloud computing, satellite GPS, and vehicle cameras, and we’re well on our way automated driving.
While many safety concerns are raised by lawmakers and engineers, the truth is that automated driving will soon be far safer. As Bill Ford highlighted in a recent keynote speech, the future of cars is “connectivity,” meaning cars will soon have maintenance systems that communicate and know when other vehicles are in their proximity. Using this technology, cars in the near future will be able to proactively avoid accidents by knowing the intentions of vehicles around them. Additionally, it’s not too far fetched to imagine a transportation system that is connected to the same network and can regulate traffic more efficiently (no more waiting at a red light when no cars are around).
One state has already legalized self-driving cars on the road (so long as two people are on board and can ultimately take control of the vehicle), the Silver State of Nevada. The search engine giant Google has taken advantage of this and has been test driving their autonomous vehicle, a Toyota Prius.