Most of us think that driverless, self-driving, or autonomous are years away. What is actually happening is each year more features are added to cars making them require less and less driver attention. For instance, Tesla’s Autopilot allows the car to maintain a set speed, brake automatically, and stay centered in its lane. Sounds amazing until you realize that most luxury vehicles and even mainstream Honda Civics can do the same. Car companies in the hunt for driverless cars include Tesla, Honda, Volvo, Ford, and Subaru.
To meet U.S. and European government mandates, automakers have been adding driver-assisted features for years. Including the Mercedes adaptive cruise control that automatically maintains a distance from car in front that was introduced in 1999. Or the Ford automatic parallel parking option introduced in 2009.
Driverless Car Study
In 2011 Google announced plans to develop fully self-driving cars by 2020 touching off automaker’s rush to get there first. The Boston Consulting Group in a recent study expects that partially autonomous vehicles will hit the road in large numbers for 2017, with the biggest growth coming in the next two decades. Mass adoption of self-driving technology will result in tremendous economic and societal benefits, and with it, far-reaching implications for automotive companies and other players in the value chain. By 2035, more than 12 million fully autonomous vehicles and 18 million partially autonomous vehicles are expected to be sold per year globally.
What about that Tesla accident in May that killed the driver? The accident appears to have happened because autopilot – a self-driving mode still in its testing phase – could not distinguish between a white truck and a bright sky, according to Tesla. If auto manufacturers aren’t cautious enough, and driverless cars are deemed unsafe by consumers or regulators, a potentially life-saving technology might not make it to market.
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