What Can the Current Test Models Do?
Current test models of autonomous cars can:
Google’s Autonomous Prius
- Reaches 75 mph
- Understands Traffic Lights
- Merges at highway speeds
- Identifies and avoids pedestrians
- Adapts speed based on surrounding vehicles
- Passed a driving test in Nevada
Audi’s Autonomous RS7
- Uses 560 Horsepower
- Reaches 150mph
- Races on Formula One tracks
Pioneering Car Makers
The Era of Autonomous Vehicles has arrived
Self-driving Audi TTS races the 12.42-mile sprint to the summit of Pike’s Peak in 27 min (17 minutes shy of the record for a human-driven car)
A BMW drives itself down the Autobahn from Munich to Ingolstadt
Google’s self-driving Toyota Priuses exceed 200,000 test miles on public roads
Induct Technology begins selling world’s 1st commercial autonomous vehicle, Navia. (Max speed: 12mph, Capacity: 8 people)
Google’s self-driving Lexuses exceed 700,000 test miles on public highways
Scheduled launch date of fully autonomous Audi A8
When Will Fully Autonomous Vehicles Be Available to the Public?
A number of industry experts have also predicted when they expect autonomous vehicles to be available to the public:
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers) predicts up to 75% of vehicles will be autonomous in 2040.
Head of Product & Technology Communications at Audi: 2017
Google Founder: 2018
CEO of Nissan: 2020
Tesla Founder: 2020
CEO of Ford: 2020
CTO of Intel: 2022
The Autonomous Advantage
“Distracted, drunk, falling asleep, falling prey to human perceptual deficits or cognitive biases, driving recklessly through over-confidence or erratically through under-confidence, ignorant of the traffic regulations or just plain criminally negligent, human drivers are forever stuck in version 1.0.” Wired
Advantages of Adopting Autonomous Vehicles
93% of crashes are due to human error.
The average American spends 38 hrs stopped in traffic annually. The average Briton spends 235 hrs driving annually.
Adaptive cruise control improves fuel economy 20-30% over manual throttle/braking.
Morgan Stanley estimates full adoption of autonomous vehicles would save US economy $1.3 trillion annually: Accidents, Fuel Costs, Workforce Productivity.
Commutes could be used for work, study, sleep, or relaxation.
How Autonomous Vehicles Could Change the World
If Autonomous Vehicles Replaced Manual Vehicles, We Could…
Today, cars sit unused 95% of the time, yet cost $9000/yr on average.
Autonomous cars could circulate all day, picking up passengers on demand and can park in much tighter spaces, with no need to open doors.
Robots are simply better drivers than humans.
Using driverless taxis would cost less than owning a car.
A Columbia University study suggested NYC’s 171,000 taxis could be replaced by just 9,000 autonomous cars, cutting costs by 88% and wait times by +95%
PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts autonomous technology could take 99% of vehicles off the road.
90% fewer cars on the road would reduce overall emissions by 15.9%.
The Legal Landscape
Liability is one of the biggest obstacles for the adoption of autonomous technology, particularly in the US. When a self-driving car causes an accident, which party is liable - the manufacturer, the supplier, the driver, the vehicle owner, or the third party company that installed aftermarket tech in the vehicle?
So far, only Florida & Michigan have passed laws exempting manufacturers from liability if vehicle was modified and modification was the subsequent reason for the crash.
Are There Precedents?
- GPS systems have given wrong directions, resulting in crashes––and product liability lawsuits. In these cases, the court had to determine:
- The source of the malfunction (software, hardware, or satellite).
- Whether the directions constituted a product or service.
The RAND Corp. names two possible solutions:
- Easing liability laws to account for social benefits of autonomous technology when punishing carmakers.
- Limiting motorists’ ability to sue in state courts when federally mandated autonomous tech fails to prevent accidents.
Why Might Federal Regulators Mandate Autonomous Technology?
“It’s too dangerous. You can’t have a person driving a two-tonne death machine,” Elon Musk
Governments have a vested interest in protecting their citizens, and the fact is that autonomous technology makes highways safer. So, like seatbelts, we might soon begin to see laws requiring automakers to include autonomous tech in new vehicles.
- The adoption of autonomous vehicles will, without question, transform the $198 billion auto insurance industry. All that remains to be seen is how and how quickly the transformations will take place.
- As vehicles become safer, “Lower claims would be expected to result in lower premiums, and tighter profit margins.”–Lloyds of London
- If 90% of traffic accidents are avoided by autonomous technology that eliminates human error.
risks still remain. These include…
- Collision by malfunction
- Cyber risks (such as hackers)
- Collision because driver isn’t alert (Applicable for semi-autonomous vehicles)
- Reputational risk for manufacturers (“People are more likely to take issue with a car & its manufacturer if it crashes itself, than if they had crashed it themselves.”)
‘But Let’s Not Be Hasty’
- “Even when a feature is mandated by federal regulations, it takes 30 years for [safety features] to penetrate 95% of the vehicles on the road.” – Russ Rader, spokesman for Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- In any case, self-driving cars are coming. Whether the road to their adoption will be long or short, only time will tell.
- Echoing this sentiment, research firm IHS predicts worldwide sales of semi-autonomous vehicles to grow from 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. Of those, just 4.8 million are expected to be fully autonomous.