Cars will one day be able to drive themselves, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
Stories about self-driving cars have been all over the news lately. Tech companies are actually testing them on the road as we speak. Many analysts have excitedly proclaimed this technology to be the future of the automotive industry. Some go so far as to claim we’ll see this technology come out of testing within a few years!
But at the end of the day, Is it really true that your next car will be able to drive you to work everyday? To make a long story short, don’t count on it.
Even if self-driving cars are on the road now, getting this technology consumer-ready is a whole other story. We see this with all technology: something new gets introduced, it spends years being too expensive for average consumers, and then eventually the kinks get worked out so people who aren’t Bill Gates can afford it. Look at HD TVs, for example. You used to pay thousands for one of those, and now they cost as much as a date night in the city. Okay, that might not be a fair comparison. Date nights are way more expensive…
But unlike HD TVs, there’s a lot more at stake with self-driving cars. The truth is, current data indicates that self-driving cars have a much lower rate of accidents than human drivers do. But right now, any accident involving a self-driving car is a major concern. The moment an error occurs because of the machine and not the human driving it, it’s the car company that has to answer to it.
While new phones or new software can ship buggy without too many repercussions, self-driving cars are literally a matter of life and death. In other words, this technology won’t be hitting the road until it’s as close to fail-safe as possible.
As a cherry on top, the technology in self-driving cars will also need to be updated regularly. This might not sound like a big deal, but when a simple update could be a matter of life and death depending on its content, it just throws another monkey wrench into the task of getting this technology consumer ready.
Now, all of these points listed can be overcome with enough time and effort, and they will be overcome eventually. But should you expect self-driving cars to be consumer ready in five, even ten years? That’s a bit of a stretch. If you’re nervous about this technology, then these delays should give you peace of mind. They are already safer, and you won’t have your car automatically driving for you until the industry is confident in its safety. Even if you have to wait decades for it, it’s better to be safe than sorry in this case.
In other words, if you’re in the market for a new car, don’t expect self-driving cars to impact your decision any time soon. It might at some point in your lifetime, but we’ll probably be well past even 10K TVs by then.