Automakers and technology companies are aggressively developing self-driving vehicles and there has been a lot of attention given to this development. Automakers such as Mercedes and Toyota have vehicles with systems that allow cars to maintain their lanes, park themselves, and apply brakes when necessary. Automakers generally plan to add automatic functions until cars are capable of driving themselves. However, technology companies like Google, Baidu, and Alibaba are working on their own technologies separate and apart from the traditional car industry.
Raj Rajkumar, an Autonomous Car Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, believes it will be the mid to later 2020s before full automation is available for vehicles. However, technology companies are predicting they can deliver a self-driving car in five years. Unlike traditional automakers, the technology companies do not have a long history of research and other information related to drivers’ needs and habits. Nor do technology companies have the manufacturing capacity, or the dealership networks in place like the major automotive manufacturers. These factors could slow the introduction of their automation technologies.
Professor Rajkumar believes it may be feasible to have prototypes in the next five year period. He sees a number of technological hurdles, including issues of liability and climate variations. Weather conditions such as heavy rain, heavy snow, and heavy fog are current problems that plague the ability of an autonomous car to operate safely in all weather conditions.
One school of thought is that consumers will continue to buy their own vehicles and that the technology companies will likely roll out driverless cars in the form of self-driving taxis for urban areas within the next five years. Currently, the most advanced systems for automation are only found in luxury brands and are very expensive. However, some experts predict that by 2035 approximately 10 percent of the vehicles sold globally will be fully autonomous with 15 percent being semi-autonomous as companies adopt automated features like lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot detection.
Regardless of all the projections, I believe there will be lots of problems with the self-driving cars. Nevertheless, it appears there will be some forms of automation in the not-too-distant future. This is an area that requires strict scrutiny by all concerned and especially the regulatory agencies.
Source: Associated Press
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