Driverless cars are coming fast. Industry think tanks estimate that by 2020, we’ll have nearly 10 million self-driving vehicles on American roads. But as Google tests their peculiar Panda self-driving cars, and Uber makes more self-driving car tests, challenges remain. Will customer be willing to pass over control to their vehicles? Will people fell safer in roads where conditions can change on a moment’s notice? In this article, we highlight some of the challenges facing the self-driving revolution.
1. Customer Understanding and Acceptance
Naturally, customers need a better grasp of the technology before they can be comfortable enough to accept it. Self-driving car makers will need to invest more on educating customers how they can take advantage of autonomous vehicles. Already, Tesla, Uber, and other stakeholders are working to make self-driving seem like mainstream. The better this message is reinforced, the easier it’ll be for these companies to make sales as the technology becomes mainstream.
2. Safety Concerns
Safety and security is still a major concern when it comes to driverless technology. In the recent past, there have been several accidents (some fatal) involving vehicles running on autonomous technology. In May 2016, an Ohio man was killed when his auto-piloted Tesla Model S crashed in a Florida highway. The accident happened because neither the driver nor Tesla’s technology recognized the white-colored trailer that was crossing its path. In March 2018, a 49-year-old woman was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona. Still, more needs to be done to re-assure consumers on the safety of the technology
3. Regulation and Technology
At this point in time, regulation is still a hurdle for self-driving technology. Perhaps it’s this realization that forced Ford, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Uber, Lyft, and Volvo to join up and create the ‘Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets’. These auto makers want to promote sensible regulation on which they can build their autonomous car autonomous.
There are many indications that cost will be another major obstacle for self-driving auto technology. Americans spend roughly $30,000 on a new vehicle. According to Fast Company, a self-driving version of Toyota Prius will go for $320,000 (sensors, radar, GPS array and everything included). Of course, this is an estimation based on test cars. When auto-makers are able to mass-produce self-driving vehicles, this cost gap will narrow down. In fact, industry experts say that by 2025, the cost difference between a self-driving car and a regular car will be just 10,000. So while cost might be an issue in the early years of adoption, it won’t be a permanent hurdle.
Despite the challenges, driverless technology will likely have a positive impact on the industry. There are over $30,000 traffic-related accidents in the U.S. every year. With proper safety regulation by the NHTSA, there’s a high probability self-driving cars will help improve road safety.