7 Eye-Opening Truths About Driverless Cars

Media reports suggest that a driverless future is right around the corner. But here is the real scoop.


Can’t wait to be a passenger in a car that drives itself while you talk on the phone, text or enjoy the view out your windshield?

Media reports might lead you to believe that driverless cars are right around the corner. But in truth, several obstacles block the path to a driverless future.

Here are seven truths about driverless cars that might surprise you:

1. The technology is years away from reality

Most of the technology to build the cars is available, but much of the computer infrastructure needed to put them on the road is not. Experts predict it will be anywhere from five to 15 years before you see a swarm of driverless cars.

2. The prices — at least to start — may be astronomical

Driverless technology currently adds $70,000 to $100,000 to the cost of a vehicle, according to the Washington Post. These costs could be reduced to $3,000 once driverless cars are mass produced, the Post reports.

 3. Laws surrounding driverless cars are murky 

Several states have passed laws permitting driverless cars on their roads.

But even those regulations are moving targets, as they are constantly being amended, according to Automated Driving: Legislative and Regulatory Action, a wiki maintained by experts at Stanford University in California.

Fog also envelops federal laws and regulations. Texas A&M Law Review found that “current law probably does not prohibit automated vehicles, but may nonetheless discourage their introduction or complicate their operation.”

4. Liability issues remain unsettled

Who is responsible when an automated car gets into an accident, either with another driverless vehicle or a human driver? The New York Times says the vehicle’s manufacturer would likely be held liable for a serious crash.

In a study titled “Products Liability and Driverless Cars,” the Brookings Institute concurred: “Autonomous vehicles will shift the responsibility for avoiding accidents from the driver to the vehicle manufacturer.”

However, Michigan, Florida and the District of Columbia have laws that protect manufacturers from liability if third-party changes to an autonomous vehicle create defects that lead to accidents, according to Brookings.

5. Drivers may be reluctant to let go of the wheel

Americans love to drive and “have always put their cars on pedestals, admiring and pampering them,” according to MTN’s “7 Bizarre Driverless Car Predictions.”

For those who have a nearly romantic relationship with their vehicle, the thrill is likely gone when they enter a driverless car. What’s the point of a driverless Ferrari?

6. Driverless cars will create winners and losers

Once all the kinks are worked out of the system — and the technology has advanced to the point that you don’t need a licensed driver to monitor the vehicle — winners are likely to be the disabled, the elderly, the blind and those too young to drive. These people will gain mobility thanks to driverless cars, according to the Washington Post.

The losers are likely to include cab drivers, truck drivers and bus drivers. If crash rates drop, body shops, insurance companies, chiropractors and emergency rooms also will lose out.

7. The technology may not gain people’s trust easily

This may be the most important question of all: Will people trust and embrace driverless technology?

In a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, half the people said they wouldn’t trust computer sensors to maintain all driving functions.

A large percentage of college graduates — 59 percent — said they would like to try a driverless car.

On the other hand, 62 percent of people with a high school diploma or less said they would not like to try a driverless car.

A slight majority of urban (52 percent) and suburban (51 percent) residents said they are interested in driverless cars. But only 36 percent of people in rural areas said they’d like to try them.

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Stacy Johnson

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