Is “trust” really why we can’t make a fast jump to fully-autonomous cars? Should car companies rush into the world of self-driving cars or is it best to go slow on developing and introducing these automated vehicles on our roads?
“A sudden changeover from human-driven to autonomous vehicles is simply not realistic no matter what Google and Tesla would like people to believe,” says Navigant Research’s senior research analyst Sam Abuelsamid (@samabuelsamid).
This is especially true for carmakers just given the sheer number of past and even recent recall scandals. “The most important thing for companies to do is to avoid rushing the technology into applications where it isn’t ready,” he warns.
“Driving is not like an app on your phone,” he continues. “When an app crashes it’s an annoyance, when your autonomous control system crashes it could be your life. “
Beta testing this technology with regular paying customers is almost certainly not a good idea, he says, citing how Ford is still suffering from quality ratings for its launch of MyFord touch. “Tesla should probably be more careful about deploying Auto Pilot because if they mess up, it could hurt the entire industry.”
In addition to trust’s being “built up first and then scrupulously maintained,” he adds, “initial deployments of autonomous vehicles are likely to be extremely limited and restricted to locations where they don’t have to mix with human-driven vehicles or deal with weather.”
For now, partially- and fully-autonomous cars are being tested in “limited urban centers” such as London and Singapore’s well-mapped congestion zones, as well as very isolated locales where cars and people rarely intersect.
For example, GM is launching a pilot program at its Warren, Mich., technology center later this year by providing self-driving Chevy Volts to shuttle employees between buildings. And the state of Nevada has given Kia free reign to test its new test fleet of self-driving Kia Soul EVs.
But does Abuelsamid have enough confidence in self-driving cars to put his family in one? “As an engineer at heart, it will be a long time before I trust autonomous vehicles with my family.”
It seems fully autonomous driving is still a long way off even as they are finally being tested on the open road and in cityscapes. Still, the transportation world is already being transformed rapidly and will continue to evolve as the intersections of hardware, software and wireless tracking makes driving a thing of the past.