Self-driving cars are gaining more and more momentum, especially as Google continues to work away on its own version and with Apple rumored to be working on their own. Already we've seen many cars on the market implement many of the same technologies present in self-driving cars, such as lane lock steering and auto brake collision technology.
But while many of these technologies are present now in mainstream cars, will a full, 100% autonomous, self-driving car ever be available on the mainstream market? The answer is complicated.
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They're Nowhere Near Ready
There have been great strides made in developing self-driving cars, with Google leading the way, but the technology is nowhere near ready to be launched on public roads. Just recently, Google announced that they've developed their self-driving cars to be able to use their horn on their own. This is an important step but goes to show how much more is left to be developed. Keep in mind that not only does the technology have to be developed, but it also has to be perfected in which there are no computer errors. After all, if people are going to be riding in them, especially on public roads, there can be no room for error.
Despite the optimism by the general public and on Wall Street, so many technological aspects have to be perfected before a self-driving car will be ready. Google has even stated they plan on creating a self-driving car that doesn't even have a steering wheel or a brake pedal. Ambitious indeed.
They Might Be Released in Stages
Signs also point to self-driving cars being released only in certain areas and stages, rather than being rolled out nationwide. The reason is because it's far easier to develop and test out self-driving cars in areas with good weather and roads that are wide.
According to Chris Urmson, who is the Project Director of the Google Car, "We imagine we are going to find places where the weather is good, where the roads are easy to drive; the technology might come there first. And then once we have confidence with that, we will move to more challenging locations." (See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj-rK8V-rik.)
In other words, some of the first commercial self-driving cars might only be viable in certain geographical areas or under only certain weather conditions. Plus, these cars will have to pass numerous and stringent safety tests and satisfy regulators enough to even be allowed on public roads.
There's a Race to the Market.
Right now, there's a race to be able to release the first viable self-driving car, as companies want to be able to enjoy First Mover Advantage. Three of the main players, which are Goggle, Apple, and Tesla Motors, want to release a self-driving car by 2020 at the latest according to numerous reports. Other major car companies, such as Audi, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz are, are also developing self-driving technology, so it'll be interesting to see who arrives at the market first. Competition is certainly driving innovation.