When I think about the concept of people using self-driving cars to get around someday, I think about a friend of mine who has limited mobility; his life would be completely freed if he could do just that. The idea of being able to get into a self-driving car and go from A to B without ever having to take a long walk to a bus stop again would be the ultimate idea of both independence and safety for anyone who struggles with getting around. The only problem; self-driving cars are still a long way from being adopted by the masses.
While it's estimated that more than 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020, there are three key reasons why the majority of everyday consumers will have to wait to get their hands on a fully-autonomous vehicle.
1) The Cars are Just Too Expensive - Today's autonomous vehicles are what hybrid cars used to be; a more efficient means of driving that costs way more than the average person can afford. As is always the case with technology, constant refinement and the availability of cheaper materials will eventually make autonomous vehicles more affordable to the masses but that day is still a few years away. It's estimated that even in 2025, having self-driving features in a vehicle will drive up the cost to the consumer by at least $7,000-$10,000.
2) The Perils of Playing Man Vs Machine - Imagine thousands or potentially millions of cars making the morning commute to your local downtown core every day. Half of the vehicles are operated by humans and the other half automatically, there are bound to be mistakes and mishaps. Maybe not as many as when all drivers are human but people are not opposed to blaming technology. Then there's the less talked about possibility of technological warfare taking place on a regular basis. Just imagine a computer programmer hacking into your car and taking control of your vehicle while you're on the freeway; scary thought.
3) Insurance and Legal Ramifications - When a self-driving car collides with a human operated vehicle, who is going to be deemed at fault? Is it going to be the human who can make rational and complex decisions that a computer can't? Will it be a computer that can account for a million different possibilities based on pre-set algorithms? This is going to be a tough one to figure out but it's an important question to answer; rest assured that as much as you might think both lawyers and insurance companies might be quick to blame technology first, this may not be the case as few experts actually think self-driving cars need to be perfected before hitting the road.
So before we all go chomping at the bit to be one of the 10 million people who have a self-driving car on the road by 2020, let's just keep in mind that we may be biting off more than we can chew. It's a tough thing to admit, especially for someone like myself who has had to watch a friend struggle through life but at the end of the day, it may be safer and simpler than the self-driving alternative that's just around the corner.