"Can the consumer trust the auto industry to create a good self-driving car?"
The consumer trusts automakers to make wheels that don't fly apart, no? Or engines that don't seize up. Or automatic transmissions that work essentially flawlessly (certainly flawlessly compared with the typically incompetent way drivers drive stick shifts!). Consumers trust ABS, stability control, automatically operating lights, spark advance, choke, fuel-air mixture, catalytic converters, air bags, and a host of other automated controls in cars, that most consumers aren't even aware of anymore.
What makes driving so different? Virtually all of the automatic systems I listed were not always automatic. But no one questions anymore that the automatic version far surpasses what humans were capable of doing manually. A catalytic converter, for instance, would never survive the manual controls of a Model T Ford.
By the way, when air bags were being introduced, their main selling point was that occupants would be protected even if they didn't bother to buckle up. They were introduced essentially as the self-buckling seat belt.
In the speech made by Google's Medford, he made it clear that the purpose of the self-driving cars, in his opinion, is "freedom." People are now being freed from the complex task of driving.
Where the disconnect occurrs is when the auto industry pitches autonomous cars to the authorities who must approve that self-driving cars can run on the same roads with other cars, carmakers always use "safety" as their pitch.
"Zero fatlities" is a mantra that sounds good, and everyone uses it. And it almost legimizes self-driving cars. But the interesting part of Medford's speech was this. To paraphrase it: don't expect zero fatality just becuasae it is a self-driving car. And if it gets into an accident, don't blame the self-driving technology for it, because even what is supposed to be recognized as the most effective automotive safety measure -- seat belts -- is not 100 percent effective.
No doubt: a lot of people should not be driving, so having an option for them to be driven around by a better driver (a self-driving car or a chauffeur) is the best solution for the fully functional drivers with whom they share the road. (Think about a self-driving taxi -- it could put a whole group of people out of work, too.) That is, assuming the self-driving car will be a better driver.
Can the consumer trust the auto industry to create a good self-driving car? The level of distrust out there considering the auto ndustry's past reputation in the U.S., and current Toyota ligiation where software flaws may have caused deaths, I don't think a well-functioning, experienced, safe, and alert driver would be readily give up the control of the car to a complex system embedded system until they know the system is close to flawless.
A system that tries to make you wear a seatbelt even if you hate it cannot work: you'll always be able to cheat the system (lock the belt behind you, for example).
In order to make me wear my seatbelt when I was 10, my father stopped the car as abbruptly as the breaks and tires would allow from a speed of 20km/h (~10mph). That made me fall on the floor... and made me WANT to put it on.
I'm not sure how well a self driving car would be received if its software allowed it to do that, though...
The way these numbers were presented is a bit confusing... But yes, basically, self-driving cars, if functioning correctly as assumed by carmakers, could have saved some lives among those who got killed even though they had their seat belts on...
The numbers suggest that only 46% of the 32,000 deaths could be saved, but almost all crashes are avoidable, and each fatal crash avoided by a self-driving car not making the mistake a person would have means fewer deaths whether the occupants were wearing seat belts or not.
There are some odd ambiguities in the way people evaluate risk. The same people that would not trust self-driving cars may cut people off in traffic or change lanes without checking the blind spots. No question that there are low-hanging fruit like seat belts that should be an easy choice, and also no question that self-driving cars will not have a perfect safety record, but both of these can reduce risk by significant amounts. Logic says that people should wear seat belts, but many do not. I also believe that self-driving cars can do a better job than people do. Add the two together and the safety margin increases substantially.
"Have you ever wondered: Who, really, needs a self-driving car?"
I see the answer on roads every day, Junko. Those people who are much busier on their cell phones, either talking or texting, and obviously not very engaged in their driving chore. Women who have the rearview mirror turned to put on makeup, again with this pesky driving nuisance always getting in the way. Drunks. Drivers who feel the need to move at 25 mph in a 35 mph road. Drivers who seem to go catatonic at stop lights, wasting a good chunk of the green cycle to snap out of their stupor.
Of course, the bit about safety never being 100 percent verges on banality. That's true no matter what you do, or even if you're at home!
My prediction is that many years from now, people will marvel at how ANYONE could ever have been allowed to drive themselves. How reckless!