Self-Driving Cars Available by 2019, Report Says

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Michael Sohn / AP

A self-driving car made by Autonomos Labs makes its way through Berlin, Germany.

Forget flying cars. The next innovation will be vehicles you don’t even have to drive. But would we actually put our lives in the hands of a computer-controlled car?

Earlier this month KPMG and the Center for Automotive Research released a report not only predicting that we’ll eventually be driving – or, rather, not driving – autonomous cars, but that they’ll be in showrooms as early as 2019. Maybe even sooner.

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“In the early decades of the 21st century, the industry appears to be on the cusp of revolutionary change,” the report’s authors write. “The revolution, when it comes, will be engendered by the advent of autonomous or ‘self-driving’ vehicles. And the timing may be sooner than you think.”

The industry has been experimenting with self-driving elements for years. In fact, the tinkering has been going on since the 1950s and General Motors’ Firebird II, which was designed to be guided along the highway by an electrical wire embedded in the road.

But a number of cars today have computers and sensors handling more and more basic driving functions while increasing safety. Think of vehicles that parallel park themselves or ones that actively avoid collisions. And Google employees have driven some 200,000 miles in the company’s experimental self-driving cars.

So it’s only a matter of time before some of these technologies are combined in a way to create a truly driverless vehicle. Most industry analysts think that time is at least a decade in the future. The latest report is the first to predict that it’s only a handful of years away.

Even so, it’s no sure thing that this prediction will come true. The technology will need to get smarter before 2019. The report’s authors explain that “sensor-based technologies” and “connected-vehicle communications” need to converge. Essentially, cars need to be able to communicate with other vehicles on the road so they don’t bash into each other. They also need the ability to sense and respond to the surrounding infrastructure: stop signs, street lights, guardrails, and many other basic transportation signals.

Tom Baloga, U.S. vice president of engineering at BMW – another automaker that’s been testing driverless features — told Reuters: “The days of George Jetson getting in the vehicle, saying ‘to the office’ and then reading a newspaper, we don’t envision for an awful long time.”

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Theoretically, those technological obstacles seem surmountable. Most of the big name automakers – Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, Honda, Hyundai and others – have been experimenting with self-driving elements for years. The real question is whether we would even drive these things.

“The socialization of autonomous driving is actually the difficult part,” John Hanson, Toyota’s national manager for environmental, safety and quality issues, told Reuters. “The invention of the vehicle is the easy part.”

But sentiment in favor of self-driving cars is growing. According to a J.D. Power study, 37% of U.S. vehicle owners are at least interested in autonomous cars, although only 20% of respondents said they “definitely would” or “probably would” purchase self-driving features in their car if it added $3,000 to the sticker price.

As we get used to more and more technology in every aspect of our lives, our attitudes toward self-driving vehicles will likely become more and more accepting. If we can’t have flying cars, we might as well be able to be able to play with out tablet computers while we get driven home from work.

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116 comments
JohnSmith37
JohnSmith37

oh man i'll be taking so many trips , it would be awesome.

JohnBailo
JohnBailo

Everyone is saying autodrives are coming, but almost no city or state transit planners are recognizing their potential impact on our future infrastructure.   For example, if we can solve the last mile(s) problem of suburban transit with robot taxis, we can extend the definition of a "city" by 10 times as many miles and not have to build density.


AWM1983
AWM1983

Given what I see on the road on a daily basis, I would probably let a gps guided car drive me around before I would let another person. Personally, I would prefer to drive my self either way; there's only me to blame if something happens. Some how I doubt I will ever see a self guided car cross 5 lanes of highway  traffic because it missed its turn. It will probably be in the correct lane well before its necessary and if it does actually miss its turn it will go around the block. I see people make this maneuver on a daily basis. What is so important about that turn that you are willing to risk your life and as well as that of everyone around, you but you can't be bothered to be in the correct lane in the first place?

RobertSF
RobertSF

I believe we will first see driverless technology applied to long-distance trucking. Trucking is less complex than commute driving because the routes are more predictable and consistent, and because there are a lot fewer trucks than passenger cars. Also, with scheduling, truck can and do already avoid rush hours in congested areas, so there would be a lot less opportunity for injury accidents. Finally, while driverless technology would be a convenience feature, to a truck operator, it would be a money saver.

Starshiprarity
Starshiprarity

Until these vehicles are able to understand basic infrastructural orders (stop signs, and such) or until there is infrastructure built for them, they can still thrive on the freeway. The systems are already adept at watching surrounding cars and staying in the lines. Even gridlock should be within its power.

Christopher
Christopher

  200,000 is incorrect, it is 300,000+ miles.

donking7
donking7

Fine.  Then the car was drunk.  Either way, the cop loses.

donking7
donking7

Anybody that drinks, or wants to, and/or party, will be delighted to get one!  Let a cop try and lie about that one in a DUI case.  The car was driving, not the person.

I'm gonna be the 1st in line to get one.

JDinFLA
JDinFLA

I guess they wont crash then...

You need people for that

Heterotic
Heterotic

Dumb article, it won't happen by 2019.

Lou50
Lou50

the sooner the better the 80% in Maryland that imitate drivers need all the help they can get. State of 5 million kill someone gets killed every 18 hours and that does not mention the ones that live. single car accidents are the norm. the concept of driving between the lines, stopping at stop signs or lights is way beyond their ability.

Vincent Wolf
Vincent Wolf

Over my dead body they will.  Imagine the mass carnage if someone managed to gain control of your car!  No way hose no thanks no way I will stick with MY own driving thank you!

Jim BigThunder
Jim BigThunder

Can it see blind people trying to enter the intersection with their white canes?

us_1776
us_1776

They better drive themselves with all these texting morons out here.

.

Josh Weinberg
Josh Weinberg

In Soviet Russia, car drives you! Haha, seriously, though... supposedly self-driving cars will be so safe that cars will then be constructed of lighter materials, since heavy safety features won't be as necessary; some estimates predict they'll be 1/4 the weight of current vehicles for this reason. I don't imagine the oil companies are going to be happy about us guzzling 3/4 less gas, and this may become one less innovation kept out of the market by entrenched corporate interests. Maybe Soviet Russia wasn't so bad, after all.

PhoenixFan
PhoenixFan

I wonder what would happen if two cars got into a road rage incident.

Tony Burzio
Tony Burzio

They can't even get trains to drive themselves, and there's no steering!

SillyAss
SillyAss

Hopefully they will make them so they will pull to the right for emergency vehicles.  I have lost count of the number of times I've had someone lock it up in front of my ambulance and give that deer in the headlights look.  It's just too damn easy to get a driver's license.

Sherman Ellen
Sherman Ellen

Here is the thing though, I purchased a 2012, new electric transmission, electric steering and I drove it 1,500 miles and then sold it because it could not coast and you had to keep both hands on the wheel at all times to correct the electric steering. Unless they fix these two very big problems with driving feel - no one will buy them. 

marcrates
marcrates

This is very exciting. My only question is: Who takes responsibility for an accident? Will insurance companies seek money from the manufactures of these cars? Figuring out the liabilities will be one of the most challenging pieces to all of this.

Vote12
Vote12

I sure hope that they will include our blind citizens with such technology so that they may be able to have their dreams finally come true as well!

Vote12
Vote12

I hope our blind citizens will have such dreams come true to be able to drive.

cpc65
cpc65

They obviously have NO idea what the roads are like here in Rhode Island.  You have swerve and weave like a drunk driver to avoid breaking an axle on all the pot holes and there's sooo many one way streets and detours from never ending road construction. The nav computer would overload and short out. 

Nikitas M
Nikitas M

In Soviet...I mean in 2019 USA car drives you!  (Let's just hope our society isn't more like the Soviets' when that day comes)

Legolas2112
Legolas2112

Yesterday: Old 'Hoss' is all drunk so the boys at the saloon lay him over his horse and slap the horse's rear so it's homing training takes him to the barn.

Tomorrow: He's all drunk and the boys strap his seat belt on and push the 'home'  button on the car's navigation system?

Siddharth Katragadda
Siddharth Katragadda

I remember arguing with a group of friends regarding this. They felt I was talking Sci-fi when  I said cars can drive themselves using sensors...this was back in 1998....

JeffinIL
JeffinIL

Yeah. I'll park it right next to that Jet Pack I was supposed to get back in 1980.

Fguy82
Fguy82

You'd have to be an idiot to think it makes sense to keep throwing away 36,000 lives a year (just in America) if the technology exists to drastically reduce that number near 0.  Self driving cars are inevitable,  barring nuclear war or total global warming destruction.

gwf001001
gwf001001

So you can be drunk and your car will drive you home? That could change society back to the good old days (pre 1980s) when people could actually go out and have fun. No doubt the puritans in America will still find a way to demand the driver be sober.

ronindavid
ronindavid

 If the car doesn't communicate with some large corporation or government then yes I'll get it. But let's face it, it will. It will include tech that will monitor your position 24/7. If that's the case, no way. It's bad enough my car and me are on video on probably 50 different cameras just to go to the store. Now with reports from Wiki Leaks that government has access to all these cameras with facial recognition tech (basically, they know where you are at all times on the road/ATM/etc). I would link the proof but Wiki was immediately taken out after posting the story (big surprise). Sorry, but the last thing I'm going to do is pay for Big Brother in my car.

Aaron Parker
Aaron Parker

I would let the car control itself up to about 60 km/h (38 mph). Any faster and I'm not trusting my life, and many other lives, with it's functionality.

Also, would the car let the "driver" set it's speed over the speed limit?

kenn213
kenn213

I really wonder about the legality of it all. Who is at fault in an accident involving self driving cars: the cars or the drivers? What if there is a death, who gets named in the criminal complaint?

jason Macdonald
jason Macdonald

Not going to happen - way too many variables like weather conditions, bugs in code look at software programs - bugs all the time. This is extreme wishful thinking. Its one thing to test a car in a controlled environment - however - a complete another thing turning it lose. 

ClintonWeir
ClintonWeir

@RobertSF  That's a very convincing argument.  One drawback is that if/when something goes wrong, the damage would be greater from a semi than from a passenger vehicle.  But a current major drawback is the price - Google has a working self-driving vehicle that has hundreds of thousands of miles logged, but they have very little concern over the cost of the vehicle since it's a one-off (or a few-off) - and iffin' you could save $100k-200k per year in salaries by using a driverless truck, it just might be worth the cost of the technology.

But will we really accept entirely driverless cars?  I think it's more likely the government will continue to require a flesh-and-blood human in the driver seat and with the ability to override the machine.  In that case, perhaps, just perhaps, you could introduce laxer licensure rules (now that the semi is going to drive itself), thus expanding the pool of possible truck drivers, thus reducing the cost of wages.  But obviously the savings would then be less dramatic then the initial promise of driverless vehicles would suggest.

Exciting stuff in any case.  My dream use case is falling asleep in the car on a Friday night and waking up at a vacation spot, then having all day Saturday and all day Sunday to enjoy, then Sunday night I fall asleep in my car again and wake up at home, ready to start my work week.

Starshiprarity
Starshiprarity

Also the sellers should put their money where their mouth is- if an accident can be directly linked to a failure of the autonomous system, they should be responsible. That should alleviate most people's concerns.

Matthew Newton
Matthew Newton

yep

there's a video on Youtube where a group of school kids walk out in front of the car and it performs perfectly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

At 5:55 you can see it. The person who took those kids across the road is INSANE. They walked right in front of the car... but it stopped, no problems.

Lou50
Lou50

move to maryland they wont stop in either direction even at intersection crossings.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Do not confuse your lack of skills with technological issues.

Nikitas M
Nikitas M

the reason the law cracked down on drunk driving was all the accidents it caused and all the people it killed

EdDebevic
EdDebevic

I'm hardly a puritan, but I'm all for being sober behind the wheel.

Matthew Newton
Matthew Newton

Makes no difference if the phone is prepaid.

They don't have to use your subscriber data, they can use your voice patterns and then have a trace on you. 

Matthew Newton
Matthew Newton

Aaron they are actually experimenting with modes (safe, moderate, aggressive) where there will be the possibility of driving over the speed limit.

ozfozzy
ozfozzy

I don't think there would be much use for a speed limit if all cars drove themselves, and did so reliably.

RobertSF
RobertSF

Never bet against technology. See, you have to be right forever, but technology just needs to be right once.

You realize that the most serious scientists in the world solemnly declared that powered, heavier-than-air flight was simply impossible. Can't happen.

They were proven wrong within the decade.

srelliott
srelliott

Google's cars have been driving themselves for quite a while without incident.  Are you any more afraid of a car driving itself than you are of a human who is drunk, texting, eating, falling asleep, surfing the internet, yelling at children, or some combination of the above?

ClintonWeir
ClintonWeir

@Starshiprarity I doubt any company has the ability to take on that kind of unlimited liability, regardless of the odds of having to actually payout.  Think about it this way - suppose I offered to pay you a trillion dollars if the sun doesn't rise tomorrow.  How much would you pay for that guarantee?  Sure you might pay a penny or two, but you wouldn't pay any amount that has any material impact on your life.  For example, if you only had just enough money to buy your next day's meals, you probably wouldn't pay for that guarantee at all.

Similarly, if a company sold millions of cars with this guarantee, and each car could potentially represent thousands or even millions of dollars in liability, how confident is the end user going to be in the company's ability to pay up if the technology fails and goes haywire?

If I owe you half of everything I have, I have a problem.  If I owe you twice of everything I have, you have a problem.  :)

RobertSF
RobertSF

Once upon a time, being drunk was actually a defense.

"Your Honor, my client was too drunk to control his vehicle; therefore, he can't be held liable for the damage his vehicle caused.