Under a Shadow of Doubt, Self-Driving Cars Shift Into High Gear
Count me as one of the skeptical when it comes to the mainstream adoption of self-driving cars. As I’ve said before, there seems to be a lot of inflated talk about the myriad benefits of a future world where cars and other vehicles, drive themselves. One of the greatest benefits is that roads will become safer because self-driving cars won’t make the same mistakes as humans. Tell that to the motorcyclist who was struck by a self-driving Chevy Bolt and is now suing GM as a result.
These types of high-visibility incidents are fueling the current shadow of self-driving doubt by American consumers. The results from a recent Northeastern University/Gallup survey, as outlined by Axios, indicate that more than half of U.S. adults are uncomfortable with self-driving vehicle technology and would be unlikely to use it on a daily basis.
Wired magazine also seems to think we’ve entered the “trough of disillusionment”, now that the “peak hype” of self-driving cars has waned a bit since Ford, Tesla, Volvo and others have adjusted the timelines of when their self-driving capabilities will become reality.
The current shadow of doubt engulfing self-driving vehicles is hardly surprising and is indicative of how a general populace reacts whenever an emerging technology starts to gain traction. A Gallup survey from 2000, for example, found that nearly a quarter of adults said they would never get a cell phone and well, we all know how that turned out.
Shifting into high gear
I believe we’ve reached a similar inflection point when it comes to self-driving cars and I think it’s a good thing that we keep following industry developments with a healthy dose of skepticism. In many ways, I think a skeptical outlook is what fuels progress. It keeps the entire ecosystem (car makers, software developers, municipalities, start-ups) in check and inspires them to work harder, collaborate and simplify what is turning out to be a very complicated issue.
But for all of the “we can do better” motivation that a skeptical public can generate, at some point , that skepticism needs to recede. Thankfully, recent developments indicate that skepticism is fading.
The Newsweek article, “Self-Driving Cars Without Humans Behind The Wheel Are Almost Here” is a great example of the self-driving progress that’s shifting into high gear in the state of California. Here’s more from Newsweek:
“Fully driverless vehicles could be taking to the roads of California in just over a month if the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles approves new rules on Monday. A spokesperson for the DMV told the San Francisco Business Times that the rules, currently under review with the Office of Administrative Law, are expected to be approved, which would start a process resulting in the issuance of fully driverless permits as early as April 2.”
fDi Magazine also has a great article about “What self-driving vehicle technology means for FDI” featuring an interview with Uli Muench, Global Vice President, Industry Business Unit for Automotive at software firm SAP, which is devoting significant resources to the development and deployment of self-driving technology.
“Autonomous cars and trucks will remake or have an effect on just about every industry in the economy,” Muench told fDi.
A great example of a positive effect involves vehicle-to-vehicle communication truck manufacturers are experimenting with to learn more about drag and wind resistance, which affects fuel consumption. As Muench told fDi:
“Imagine 10 trucks on a highway. The first one is in the wind with the remaining nine following in the draft of that first truck, which has been equipped with sensors and radar to monitor the conditions and report back to the other trucks, which then modify their driving accordingly. That would allow them to drive within, say, two feet of one another, which has huge implications in terms of profitability for transportation companies.”
If you’d like to learn more about how a connected, automated ecosystem is transforming mobility and transportation, download this free report here.