Subscribe

Driverless cars: What's the holdup? Public trust.

Driverless cars are possible with the technology available in many of the vehicles on the road today. So why can't we buy them yet?

  • close
    A Lexus SL 600 Integrated Safety driverless research vehicle on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Experts argue that the technology for driverless cars exists, but that the public doesn't quite trust the idea yet.
    Julie Jacobson/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

If you're itching to get your hands on a self-driving car, there's something you can do to speed up the process: talk to your neighbors.

That's one of the tips gleaned from a panel on "Driver Distraction Regulation and Autonomous Driving", which convened this week at the Society of Automotive Engineers' annual World Congress in Detroit. According to AutoNews, most of the experts on that panel -- including representatives from Honda, Nissan, and the University of Michigan -- agree that the technology to create self-driving vehicles already exists.

We would agree. Many of the systems crucial to autonomous vehicles -- systems like brake-assist, lane-assist, and adaptive cruise control -- can be found on many of today's cars. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology isn't available just yet, but it's evolving rapidly -- and Google's autonomous car has done just fine without it anyway. 

Recommended: Five auto parts you should buy online

What's lacking is public trust, and frankly, that's unlikely to exist until everyday consumers (a) become aware of autonomous vehicles and (b) become convinced of their reliability.

It's the latter part of that equation that's tricky. Getting the public to believe that their lives aren't in danger when their car starts driving itself down the highway at 70 mph is going to take a little time. And the first time headlines hint of a technical malfunction in a deadly accident, the public backlash is likely to be severe. It may take a decade or more before the majority of consumers become comfortable with the technology. (Though offering benefits like special travel lanes for autonomous vehicles could speed up the process a bit.)

According to Detroit News, the panel at SAE sees autonomous vehicles arriving around 2025. That may seem like an eternity for early adopters, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already making plans for the debut of self-driving cars. In fact, it's preparing a multi-year research project to draft rules and regulations for autonomous vehicles.

What no one has really addressed yet, it the question of liability in accidents. Because automakers, software engineers, insurance agencies, and lawyers around the globe are eager to know: when autonomous vehicles collide, who's at fault?

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK