Google has long been developing self-driving cars, and sees them being available to consumers in the next three to five years. However the insurance industry doesn’t believe it can happen that quickly. The problem: although in theory self-driving cars would take human error out of the equation, sensors and software would have to think and react like a human without fail.
Self-driving cars would no doubt change the game, and it’s because of that reason that insurance companies now have to rethink who would be at fault after an accident. Not only that, safety standards will have to be rewritten, focusing on both mechanics and electronics.
Anthony Levandowski, product manager for Google’s self-driving car technology, told Automotive News, “The improvement can be such that we can make cars that drive safer than people do. We expect to release the technology in the next five years. In what form it gets release is still to be determined.” The safety benefits alone of this technology are making U.S. auto regulators eager.
Looking at the statistics, traffic crashes in the U.S. kill around 33,000 people each year, although that number continues to fall due to the help provided by crash-avoidance systems that are emerging in vehicles today.
Levandowski believes Google’s biggest challenge will be with the reliability of the software. “We’re really focusing on building in the reliability so we can trust and understand the system will perform safely in all conditions.” These cars will need to be taught how to respond to every scenario that may happen when on the road, whether that’s a low tire pressure warning or something more serious.
The insurance industry seems to be on board with the project, at least in terms of helping itself. “Right behind the first autonomous vehicle is the first autonomous vehicle ambulance chaser. They will be there faster than you can imagine looking for any sort of accident that might be attributable to a deep pocket,” said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute.
Are driver-less cars a real possibility in the next five years? According to Chuck Gulash, senior executive engineer of Toyota Motor Corp.’s technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the industry may not get there. He believes the driver will need to remain in control, regardless if the vehicle can make most of the decisions.
Although Toyota and Google may not see eye to eye on the matter, technology continues to be developed and honed, and whether that’s intended for vehicles that can drive themselves or for a car that’s ale to react before the driver to avoid a crash, only time will tell.
Source: Automotive News