Humans will still be driving cars “for the foreseeable future,” said a Senior General Motors official at a congressional hearing on robotic cars. Nissan has vowed to put them on the road in 2020, but Carnegie Mellon’s Raj Rajkumar says humans will still need to assist the car for probably another decade. “Only sometime in the 2020s will a fully autonomous system that does not require a human to be in the driver’s seat become feasible.”
It’s hard to overstate how much of a gift self-driving cars will be to society. Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, Kirk Steudle, estimated that they could prevent many of the 32,000+ traffic accidents and 2.2 million injuries annually.
To speed up testing, Google flexed its considerable political muscle to get its own robotic cars legalized in California. For our readers who want to procrastinate at work, the The New Yorker has a nice long read of the design process of Google’s self-driving cars.
Not every lawmaker followed carmakers down the techno-optimists gravy train. “First, it’s hard for me to fathom a car in New York City being without a driver,” said Rep. Sires, who expressed skepticism about automated cars. “I mean, it’s hard enough with a driver. So, you know, trying to visualize this is very difficult.”
Probably the boldest pronouncement came from GM’s VP of Sustainable and Global Regulatory affairs. “I think it’s going to create jobs ultimately,” he argued. That may be true, but it’s also going completely gut the taxi industry and the inflated car industry based on individual ownership.
Despite technical challenges getting cars on the road by 2020, Senior Manager of Technology Planning at Nissan Andy Christensen, said “The timeframe is challenging, but we believe achievable.”
[Image Credit: Flickr User jurvetson]