One year ago, we wrote a post about driverless cars. At that time, these futuristic cars seemed like something, well, of the more distant future. But self-driving vehicles have been all over the news lately. And we decided we should revisit this topic and find out what all the talk is about.
Are self-driving cars on the roads now? You bet they are.
Self-driving cars are not far off from becoming a common sight on our roads. The technology is moving ahead quickly and these vehicles are further along than most people appreciate. Google’s nearly 50 self-driving cars are out on the roads in Mountain View, California, near its Silicon Valley headquarters and in Austin, Texas. These vehicles have logged over 1 million miles since testing began in 2009. And, there are over a half dozen other companies that hold California permits permitting several driverless cars on the roads. One of these prototypes, an Audi 7, drove from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, with company executives and journalists onboard documenting the experience. Another Audi vehicle drove from San Francisco to New York, operating autonomously 99% of the way. To top it off, many current vehicles available for purchase, including Tesla vehicles, offer several of these advanced self-driving features.
On the Market in 4 Years?
And while fully driverless vehicles aren’t available for consumer purchase yet, Ford CEO Mark Fields announced last month that self-driving cars would be on the road by 2020. Chris Urmson, Director of Self-Driving Cars at Google, backed up the time horizon noted by Ford, indicating that he expects to have self-driving cars available on the market for consumer purchase within 4 years. Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder, has mentioned timeframes as early as 2017.
China’s leading online search firm, Baidu Inc., recently announced it plans to have self-driving buses on the roads of China within 3 years. Moreover, Baidu Inc. expects mass production of the buses within 5 years.
These vehicles will likely be quite costly, at least initially. At present, most self-driving cars require a component called a LIDAR, a sophisticated technology that sends out laser signals to create high resolution digital maps in real time. Initially, this technology cost $70,000 but recently has been manufactured at lower costs ranging from $8,000 to $30,000. Even so, the addition of these costs and other self-driving component costs to current vehicle prices will make vehicle prices considerably higher.
While much of the technology has been developed, key legal and regulatory issues may slow down the integration of self-driving vehicles in our marketplace. As mentioned in the previous post, the tough legal and regulatory questions including liability for self-driving car crashes are still a large part of this debate that must be addressed. We will follow these complex discussions and provide updates at key milestones.
Are you ready for self-driving vehicles on the streets of South Florida? Why or why not? Tag or share this post, and let us know what you think.
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