The race is on.
A race that looks set to radically transform our cities and lives as high-tech newcomers and established car manufacturers vie to spearhead the autonomous vehicle revolution. Soon we may live in cities where we work while commuting, instead of simply commuting to work. Cities in which more cars travel more closely together generating a host of time and energy efficiencies. Cities with more open spaces instead of parking spaces. And perhaps most importantly of all, a world in which road accidents, often the result of human error, are reduced by as much as 90%.
But are we really ready to hand over the wheel and put that much faith in our machines? As drivers know, traffic represents a highly complex system, capable of changing in an instant. How can drivers be assured that the autonomous vehicle is ready to venture out on its own?
This assurance won’t happen overnight, but will require a gradual process. The pace of this transition will rely on the development of technology, frameworks, and on individual driver’s mindsets. Accepting co-piloting features like automatic cruise-control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping is one thing, giving up full control of the car could prove to be a greater challenge. In a poll conducted by TÜV SÜD, 30% of the respondents said they consider autonomous driving to be “safe” or “very safe”, while almost 30% were undecided. The remaining respondents considered the technology to be “somewhat unsafe” (18%) or even “unsafe” (24%).
As autonomous vehicles emerge from the test lab and on to our roads, their ability to capture public support will depend on the trust and confidence of the drivers themselves. Notably, the legal liability will also shift along with the technological reality, from drivers to developers and manufacturers.