“Self-driving cars are coming. But the technology will arrive before society figures out how to make it work,” Ford executive chairperson Bill Ford told Forbes Magazine. Interestingly, Ford does not believe this stepping stone on the road map of automotive ingenuity to be a destination. Eying material efficiency as a means to increase safety and fuel economy is – in this car maker’s opinion – the real Holy Grail.
A New Industry Option by 2020?
General Motors is willing to put a time stamp on the invention. CNET reports that GM President Dan Ammann envisions that companies will have the technical expertise for autonomous cars by 2020. It is interesting to note that this bold statement parses the actual usefulness of the invention from the ability to build and potentially even mass-manufacture the vehicles.
While Ford and GM may be careful about revealing what – if any – strides they have made toward developing workable concept cars that would be self-driving, IEEE Spectrum wastes no time revealing that Nissan and Mercedes have already road-tested their semi-autonomous offerings.
Will Recalls Make the 2020 Goal Overly Optimistic?
In the past, it was thought that legal wrangling over who has ultimate control over the vehicle while driving would jeopardize the technology. Yet the federal government has shown that it is open to the new technology – at least in increments. Case in point is the February 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) press release that gives a green light to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology.
Since this is a major component of self-driving car technology, manufacturers are understandably optimistic. Yet the Washington Post has identified the elephant in the room that puts a kibosh on the new optimism. Citing the “deadly manufacturer defects” of cars made by Toyota and General Motors, it is questionable if the consumer will trust any car manufacturer who is accused – or found guilty – of covering up any type of automotive defect.
Can Manufacturers Race to the Finish Line?
IHS has released the results of its automotive study and the numbers are remarkable. Well in advance of 2025, the organization forecasts the appearance of semi self-driving cars on America’s highways. Fully autonomous cars are expected by 2030. Across the globe, some 11.8 million self-driving cars will be on the roads in 2035 the experts believe.
The question that remains unanswered involves the names of the car makers that will be instrumental in delivering these vehicles to the consumer. After all, how many consumers would feel comfortable – today – putting their families into a car that is controlled exclusively by a Toyota or GM computer?