All indications on the future of the auto industry point to the so-called autonomous or semi-autonomous cars with companies such as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) spearheading efforts on this front. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the latest addition to the driverless car debate with reports indicating it is working on a secret project dubbed ‘Titan.’ During an interview with CNBC, Lux Research analyst, Maryanna Saenko, said the technology may take longer than expected to come to fruition as safety concerns and regulation hurdles in different countries are expected to act as the biggest headwinds for the auto companies.
Self-driving cars from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) are expected to eliminate 90% of accidents. That should eliminate damages, health costs and save thousands of lives annually, but the long wait according Saenko should be a point concern.
“I think unfortunately we are significantly further out than most people would like them to be. Our own estimate look at 2030 and beyond as still not having attractable amount of autonomous vehicles on the road. Potentially there will be a few autonomous vehicles but they will only operate in very small restricted environment, highly mapped environments,” said Mrs. Saenko.
The driverless car technology is still in its infancy with the development of cars from scratch to a point where they can get regulatory approval expected to be the biggest hurdle for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). Safety tests that automakers are usually required to go throw could further dent the chances of the autonomous vehicles hitting the roads sooner than what people currently expect.
Saenko notes that a functional prototype available today would have meant that the vehicles would be available for mass sale in the next ten years, something that is not the case at the moment. Regulations in different countries are also expected to be another derailment, which should affect the autonomous cars coming into realization in a few years’ time.
General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has been developing autonomous systems for piloting cars, but it hasn’t been vocal like other automakers and many industry analysts argue the company is playing catch-up in terms of public perception. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) on the other hand has been testing its autonomous technology on roads and looks the most likely to come out with the first full autonomous car.
Safety aspects of the driverless cars also continue to elicit questions especially on who is to take the blame in cases of accidents and the kind of margin errors that manufacturers would be required to maintain. These are some of the questions that are expected to affect the kind of insurance policy that insurance companies offer.
“They say that the vast majority of car accidents today happen as a result of a human driver error. But the question really becomes are we willing to allow some margin of error to the computer as it takes more and more of the driving? So if human drivers say cause 30% of the error and may be computers can reduce that to 10% are insurance agencies even willing to accept that 10% error? And, in that case, who does the blame even go to?” said Mrs. Saenko.
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