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How prepared are we for self-driving cars?

Posted: 24 Jul 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Barr  self-driving car  Strategy Analytics  ADAS  autonomous car 

For one thing, there's the folk maxim "Never trust a machine." Many drivers are reluctant to cede control of a car to a computer running software. The more you know about technology, the better you know that there's no such thing as error-free software.

However, there are some people who firmly believe that getting people out of the driver's seat can't help but yield safer roads. Anyone who has been on the road knows that you can't trust your fellow drivers.

Roger Lanctot, associate director at Strategy Analytics, added another dimension to the debate in a recent company blog post. The analyst has brought up the natural human desire for freedom and control.

In his blog, Lanctot compared highway fatalities with deaths resulting from gun violence (homicides and suicides combined). "Both figures hover around 30,000, or about 100/day."

The analogy is brilliant. At a time when so many people resist gun control in the US in any shape or form, can we really expect those Americans to abdicate the freedom of using their own steering wheel, accelerator and horn?

In his blog, Lanctot brings up Charlton Heston, five-term president of the National Rifle Association, to make his point. I couldn't help but picture Heston taking the stage at an American Automobile Association convention, holding up a vintage (Model A) steering wheel, and defying the federal government to rip it "from my cold, dead hands."

In a subsequent email exchange, Lanctot told me, "My point is that this touches on the very emotional attachment drivers tend to have with their cars." In his opinion, it will take a lot of disruption in people's emotional and even intellectual attachments before they embrace self-driving cars. As Lanctot pointed out, drivers will inevitably ask: "Are you questioning my driving skills?"

Just as any kid remembers the summer he or she learned to ride a bike and discovered the world beyond the home neighbourhood, many drivers won't so easily forget the exhilarating sense of freedom, not to mention the rite of passage, of being alone on the open road, handling two tons of steel and 380 horses with nothing more than a steering wheel and a flick of the wrist.

- Junko Yoshida
  EE Times

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