Self-Driving Cars Are Closer Than You Think

By: Jake Willms, Quantitative Analyst

Driving is one of the most fundamental aspects to our civilization. Just about everyone owns or rents a vehicle and commutes daily to and from work, only to continue driving to any other destination. Our world is inundated with roads, streets, highways, you name it. Some would even argue that driving, whether it be in a busy city or an open countryside highway, is at the core of being an American.

Self-driving cars, or autonomous cars, have been at the forefront of research and development for many car manufacturers for the last several years, and for good reason. As technology continues to advance, so does our appetite for convenience. The possibility of a car that drives itself is exciting and could very well change the entire landscape of travel.

Autonomous cars have been quietly tested in some select cities across the nation. For example, Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, has joined the likes of Google, Amazon, and others in testing autonomous vehicles without a driver. Even a few years ago while I was a student at Arizona State University, I would occasionally see self-driving cars being tested on the streets of Tempe, AZ.

Safety is the main roadblock in the development and acceptance of autonomous driving. What kind of accidents can occur, and how does a machine handle them? What are the safety concerns for pedestrians, who commonly walk outside the bounds of a crosswalk? These are just some of the many pivotal questions car manufacturers have to answer in the upcoming years if autonomous driving is going to earn widespread appeal and adoption.

Only time will tell when and how self-driving cars enter the driving world, but I do know this: That day isn’t too far away.

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