Are Self-Driving Vehicles Less Than 30 Years Away?

The main question is not if autonomous cars will happen, but when.

Several blogs ago, LimoDirect published information about a Department of Transportation study analyzing the development of crash-avoidance technology. If successful, the technology will allow cars, trucks and buses the ability to “talk” to each other and also talk to infrastructure objects while on the road.

The latest technology being looked at by both the public and private transportation sectors is “autonomous” vehicles, or vehicles that are self-driving. The vehicles would still need a driver, of course, but the driver would be able to relax or work or talk on a phone while in the driver’s seat, and the momentum for developing this high-tech cutting edge concept is building. An article in Forbes Magazine on the subject postulated that self-driving vehicles will become commonplace by 2040. But things are moving so fast, it could be as few as 3 years that we see at least partially autonomous cars when Cadillac expects to be producing such vehicles. And now, other automakers are entering the race:

  • Audi and BMW are showing their self-driving cars, with Audi driving a concept
    car up Pike’s Peak. BMW has introduced a technology called “ConnectedDrive” which it says will be available in just a few years.
  • Tech giant Google has a fleet of autonomous Toyota Prius cars that have logged 1 million miles. Google has also lobbied Nevada into becoming the first state in the nation to legalize self-driving cars, and California seems to be close to taking that step.
  • Volvo has been testing the technology in its cars and has also conducted a study on consumer attitudes. While older drivers tend to be apprehensive about the idea, 18 to 37-year-olds are accepting.

According to New York’s ABI Research, these “advanced driver assistance” technologies were a $10 billion market in 2012. ABI projects that the figure will reach $130 billion by 2016. The United States government is also getting involved. The Department of Energy and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are studying the technology and surveying select respondents to gauge the willingness to buy and drive these self-driving cars.

According to Dr. Azim Eskandarian, Director of the Center for Intelligent Systems at George Washington University, the engineering and science technology is already here and available. The main question is not if autonomous cars will happen, but when. “I’m pretty sure all this will come,” he said. “It’s hard to say which country will introduce it
first.”

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