Autonomous Vehicle

Contrary to the predictions of many industry analysts, Google’s head of self-driving cars, Chris Urmsan, expects actual people to be driving in self-driving cars within the next 2-5 years. However, the cars may not quite yet be a consumer product. Chris stated, “the cars would still be test vehicles, and Google would collect data on how they interact with other vehicles and pedestrians.” The extent of that testing and the stakeholders involved has yet to be disclosed. (Sign me up!)

This may not come as a surprise to some, as Google made a similar announcement back in September of 2012. In that instance it was Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, stating that we should expect to see the vehicle brought to the general public within 5 years. It’s been just over 2 years since that statement.

Safety and legislation are currently the two biggest roadblocks that must be overcome before self-driving vehicles can become a realistic consumer option. Already, four states have enacted laws to enable driver-less vehicles. It started with Nevada back in June of 2011. That was followed by Florida in April of 2012. Californiaand Michigan followed shortly thereafter. Also, the city Coeur d’Alene in Idaho passed a law during mid-2014 on the use of robotics which included a section on driverless vehicles. These changes represent movement in the right direction from a legislation perspective.

Google and other self-driving automakers are going to have to pick up their pace in enacting state and nationwide laws to legislate the use of driverless vehicles if they want to release to the general public within the next 5 years. 

While many analysts have argued that sufficient safety will prevent the vehicles from releasing any time soon, it is apparent that Google is focusing on safety as a prime priority in the vehicle’s proper development. Anthoney Levandowski, Google’s Product Manager of the self-driving vehicle, said the following:

We’re really focusing on building in the reliability so we can trust and understand the system will perform safely in all conditions…How do you design it with proper processes in order to understand and minimize failure? How do you bake into a car redundant braking?

With over 700,000 accident free autonomous miles, it’s apparent that Google’s vehicles are quite safe already. Hopefully, Google’s prophesy is true and that we will have bug-free driverless vehicles in the hands of the general public within the next five years. As always, we’ll just have to wait and see. 

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think Google needs to take more time to perfect the technology? Or do you have confidence in Google’s sensibility in ensuring sufficient safety prior to a public