Self-driving vehicles still need drivers and regulations

Article by Anita Panait, on September 30, 2013

Autonomous or self-driving vehicles used to be just an idea; but not anymore as carmakers strive to achieve such a feat by the end of the decade at the earliest. One of these carmakers is General Motors, which is currently testing at a suburban Detroit track a self-driving system embedded in the persona of Cadillac SRX.

The car is able to drive itself at highway speed while the driver does something else other than driving. The self-driving capability of the first versions of GM’s autonomous vehicles -- due by 2020 – is only limited to controlled-access highways like an interstate. The first GM self-driving vehicle is also not capable of avoiding accidents on their own, since that task will still be the responsibility of a human pilot.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com, told Bloomberg News that although self-driving technology could be doable, there are questions on how to implement, regulate and standardize. She added that there are people who want to be in control and don’t want driving taken away from them.

While the innovation is fast developing, carmakers are still cautious about developing fully autonomous technology, like that envisioned by Google Inc. This cautiousness, according to GM officials, is a realistic view of what consumers will accept and the rules of the road will allow.

Bill Visnic, an analyst who follows autonomous vehicles for Edmunds.com, told Bloomberg that there should be a “kind of regulatory foundations in place at a reasonably nascent place,” particularly in the United States where the federal government oversees vehicle safety while states regulate insurance and licensing drivers. He said that sans such regulatory foundation, it might become “the Wild West out there.”

Topics: autonomous car

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