A Look at the Road Ahead for Autonomous Vehicles

Stephen L Kanaval  |

President Obama alluded to autonomous motor vehicles in his recent State of the Union address, and today we have more information on that proposal. The 10-year plan would provide $3.9 billion in support innovation and technological production. Along with production costs are the issues of legislation and national policy development because currently only Nevada, California, Michigan, Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington D.C. have any unique laws in place. The federal proposal would start in 2017 and create avenues for advanced pilot testing. The US Department of Transportation sees the autonomous vehicle as a way to move goods and services more rapidly and to control road congestion by reducing accidents. Thus, the DOT is examining policy and updating legislation and creating best practices for autonomous vehicles. An autonomous vehicle framework that included legislation would be huge for automakers because as it stands companies need to work out regulation on a state-by-state basis.

Autonomous vehicles still need a lot of road testing. In a Google test, drivers had to take the wheel 341 times in a 14-month timeline. The same report also details software failures that were only kept from causing accidents by drivers intervening. However, Google’s autonomous vehicle fleet have driven 1.3 million miles and never caused an accident.

Google is one of the few companies that want to create pure autonomous vehicles. Tesla and General Motors are creating semi-autonomous vehicles. Google is not a fan of this because they believe this leads to drivers relying too heavily on the software and putting lives endanger. The executives at Google are committed to perfecting the technology until it works fluidly. Former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik is heading up Google’s autonomous vehicle division and soon will be bringing the pod prototype to Austin, Texas. It seems that Google’s skin in the game, as Tesla and Apple accelerate production, is to perfect their Android Auto software and sell that to manufacturers.

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