Further news this week that the self-driving car race is attracting more competitors: in Germany, Daimler Benz has just tested a factory-produced truck under real road conditions on the Autobahn. In Japan, the city of Fujisawa has launched a robot taxi pilot scheme, and hopes that it will be functioning with commercial vehicles in time for the 2020 Olympic Games.
For many optimists, the predictions that we will see widespread use of self-driving vehicles on our roads within five years are coming true. Aside from Google cars, which are now a normal sight on the roads of Mountain View (albeit with a human behind the wheel and limited to 40 kph) and have passed their driving test in several states, Apple has put together a team of one thousand people to work on a similar project. Meanwhile, Nissan’s first autonomous vehicle has been licensed to drive on the road, while Ford has produced another as part of a research project, and Toyota has too decided to go down the same road. Volvo is working on its own project and is road testing, and Honda has just been given approval to test its self-driving vehicles in real traffic conditions in California.
At the same time, the law is being changed to allow self-driving vehicles on the roads in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, with research now focusing on questions such as how to vehicles to make decisions and to copy human driving styles (how long until a self-driving car is fined for the first time?) or to reach consensus on the ethical implications of making a decision in the event of an accident, a question that was never raised when these decisions were taken under the present conditions, with humans behind the wheel.
At the same time, there is wider interest in self-driving cars: young people are less and less interested in owning a car, or simply prefer an Uber ride over what was once a symbol of freedom.
The advantages of self-driving cars in terms of more rational transport use, safety, and consumption are impressive, a value proposition that society is increasingly interested in. If you still haven’t included them in your scenario analysis, do so now: self-driving vehicles are coming up fast behind us.
(En español, aquí)