One of the emerging technologies of 2016 will be self-driving cars. That is to say, cars that are completely autonomous, capable of reading and navigating through their environment without any interaction from a driver. In fact, they wouldn’t even need a driver at all.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted that a car would be able to self-drive the continental US, from L.A. to New York within the next two years or so. A bold prediction, and one that many claim may be a little overly optimistic, but the technology is nearly there.
But whilst the technology is almost up to speed, so to speak, it is regulation that is more likely to be the key factor when it comes to when you will be able to get yourself a self-driving car. Before the cars hit the road, they need to be legal and that requires a national infrastructure in place first that would need state-wide co-operation, so cars passing between state borders will continue to work in the way they are supposed to. They will also need extensive testing from regulatory bodies to ensure that they are indeed safe to drive…. Even though you won’t really be driving them!
Lots of questions need to be sorted first in terms of regulation. Do you need a license to be in an entirely autonomous car, in case things go wrong? Can you get into an autonomous car drunk? These are just some of the issues that need to be addressed.
But fear not, the government aren’t dragged their feet. Obama is expected to earmark a whopping $4 billion in the 2017 fiscal budget to create a framework over the next 10 years to get all these issues sorted out. If things go correctly, that framework will provide the infrastructure and regulation needed to get this impressive technology [literally] on the road.
Another feature to self-driving cars will be the Summon feature available on Tesla cars. Currently able to park your car, Elon Musk claimed that it is only a matter of time before you can summon your car from across the country and it will self-drive to your location, even if you’re in New York and your car is in L.A. Needless to say that would be a very useful feature indeed!
The technology for totally safe self-driving cars is almost complete, and it is likely that if regulatory plans go smoothly, it won’t be too much longer before we’ll be seeing them on the road! The future really is almost here!