The best I see autonomous cars getting in the time span of 15-30 years is perhaps on divided highway situations. Once you enter the on-ramp, you could flip a switch to autonomous mode which would allow you do do all your distratcted driving tasks until you reached your exist. Then the car would be in manual mode.
At any time during the autonomous mode, it could be overridden. I like to think of it as a smart cruise control.
I heard on the radio that truck drivers may have to worry about employment as their job is taken over by a robot. I find this no more realistic than pilots being out of a job for the same reason. Someone would have to be behind the wheel at all times even if the truck is running autonomously.
Already we are submitting tasks like trading stocks and transmission of electricity to computers, giving us incidents we cannot fully explain. It will take some while before we put our faith in similar systems for activities that are safety critical intensive.
Kris, Junko - re: "I wonder at which point "normal" cars will be phased out, as analog TV today."
There's a pretty easy answer to this question. Look at classic cars on the road today with none of the modern required safety features. Cars from the 1960's and earlier are simply death-traps by today's standards, but they stay around in limited numbers, driven by car enthusiasts.
Manually driven cars will be grandfathered in, as are old, unsafe cars today. Their numbers will dwindle over time until there just aren't enough on the road to be a significant factor.
I think we'll all be quite surprised at how fast this happens. My prediction is that Auto manufacturers will be offering their first cars with Level-4 self-driving capability in less than a decade. Adoption won't be that fast until people start to realize that the accident rate on self-driving cars is a fraction of what it is with conventional cars.
Yes, manufacturers will be afraid of the liability and they'll get sued. But - they will calculate the expected costs of self-driving related accident suits vs. the cost of the current liability structure and will want to push the self-drivers. NHTSA will get involved and want to see self driving as a safety feature too.
I'm expecting to see some car modder offering a self-driving kit any day now. If it's not this year, it won't be long from now and it will be before the manufacturers get in on the action.
Karen, think of our parents' generations. How hard it is to take car keys away from them, when they are really no longer fit for driving. I hope to live long enough to be chauffeured around by these self-driving cars!
The point is, more efficient and safe use of infratructure for personalized, private transportation. Which translates to fewer roads having to be built.
As much as people ballyhoo the wonders of public transportation, few people use it overall, and it's not often convenient either. Unless you live in downtown neighborhoods, public transportation doesn't take you to your door. It doesn't run always. It's mostly useful for commuting to work on normal daytime schedules. So truly autonomous cars would be like public transportation that takes you to your doorstep, is always there exactly when you need it, and uses roads much more efficiently than the vague, haphazrad, and random behavior of human drivers can ever do.
Cycling to work? So, you arrive at work and you take a shower? Or you go to a meeting and you take a shower? I had an office mate who rode his bike to work every day, and of course, no shower in the office. It's simply not practical.
Am I the only one not seeing the point of autonomous vehicles? It seems that we should be building better infrastructures for public transportation and cycling to work, than figuring out better ways to keep us all in our cars.
Wouldn't it be nice that when light turns gree all the cars in row start immediately instead of sping action where last car start way late then first car due to human response time. Also no honk to guys who sleeps or busy in texting while light turn green and you miss signal due to him... just that the article lead to wild imagination of world with fully automated cars :) Also cop cannot ticket car if found speeding (hope they dont issue SSn for cars :) )
In my opinion beside leagal infra structure, car security would be another big concern here. To kidnap someone, just launch visrus in cars software and done (I dont remember action movie name but something like this was shown). People are even concerned about having wifi/data sharing/location information uploading e.t.c. which are more or less needed for automation.
When the autonomous cars start running on the roads, it is not these cars that will create a safety hazard on the road but it is the mix of such cars along with the manually driven cars that will create some odd situations which the autonomous cars will not have been programmed for. Because the humans sometimes drive in totally unpredictable ways ( depending upon their mood, their mental stress level , their co-passengers and the alcohol level in their blood)
I think it's possible, as long as we don't extend that prediction to mean that these fully autonomous vehicles will be driving on fully autonomous mode all of the time. The roads will take time to be updated.
BTW, I mean 1950s, for freeways, not 1050s. (Of course, Roman roads many decades BC were superfreewys of sorts too.)