Self-Driving Cars Face Serious Roadblocks
Tony Bizjak | McClatchy Newspapers, June 17, 2012Among those who say they won't switch is car club member and driving enthusiast Shane Cole of El Dorado Hills, Calif.
"I love to drive," Cole said. "If I wanted to just sit, I'd take the bus."
Cole asks what happens when, not if, a car's computer system fails. "My cellphone freezes. The computer shuts down sometimes. Every electronic device is going to fail at some point. Imagine your car wigs out on you on the freeway. It's kind of scary."
There may be bigger issues to resolve.
Toprak and others say autonomous technology would work best if all vehicles were self-driving, and roads are adapted to accommodate them. But that would involve unknown infrastructure expense.
Edmunds' Lachnit said there also is an unresolved legal question. Who's responsible if there is a crash? The vehicle occupant could argue he was not driving. Automakers, she said, are unlikely to move forward with commercial production of the technology until that issue is resolved.
California is quietly positioning itself at the leading edge of what could be the biggest revolution in daily travel since the day the buggy was unhitched from the horse.
The self-driving, or autonomous, car, seen by many as a "Jetsons"-like futuristic dream, may be less than a decade from commercial reality, some researchers now say, pushed forward in good part by an unlikely California company - Web giant Google Inc.
"We may be at a historic cusp where driverless cars share the road," said Carroll Lachnit, an editor at car information site Edmunds.com. "The (technological) pieces are all there."
The concept excites many who say the technology will lead to fewer crashes and less wasted commute time. There will be less stop-and-go traffic, they say. Self-driving vehicles won't slow down to gawk at things beside the road, a major cause of congestion.
Intrigued by the idea of eliminating human error from driving, a California legislator has introduced a bill to clarify that driverless cars are street-legal.
Researchers, notably Google, more known for Web search engines than car components, already are producing test cars that drive on their own in traffic on city streets and freeways.
But the push is generating ...