How long until cars drive themselves?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf has many cool features like laser scanners to keep track of traffic, and artificial intelligence to make driving safer.

Every year, 6 million people get into car accidents, and 93% of the crashes are caused by simple mistakes. If there was a self-driving car – autonomous vehicle – on the road, millions of incidents could be prevented! Recently, a German newspaper reported that Google was working with car-part companies to start their own branch of self-driving Google taxis. Also, earlier this week, the car company Nissan announced they were working on a system called Autonomous Drive, and promised to have it ready by 2020!

These kinds of stories are music to my ears, especially because I am not looking forward to taking my driver’s license test. If self-driving vehicles are out, I probably won’t even need a license! However, according to MIT Technology Review, they won’t be on the road for many years.

In fact, Google likely won’t ever focus on mass-producing a self-driving car. They’re so busy with internet-related shenanigans, and so inexperienced with manufacturing vehicles, it’s simply not practical for them to do so.

However, what Google can do is engineer software for such a vehicle or create prototypes – working examples. It’s totally possible that Google can use their expertise to improve different car functions like self-braking and accident prevention sensors.

Nissan, however, has been building automobiles since 1933! If my calculations are correct, that’s a whopping 80 years. They clearly have the know-how, so why isn’t building an autonomous car a possibility for the near future? Heck, they promised to have the system Autonomous Drive in the streets by 2020! Well, that name is a bit misleading, since it’s more likely the system will include autonomous features. Some of their cars, like the Nissan Leaf, already use “autonomous” features like laser scanners to keep track of traffic and artificial intelligence to make safe driving decisions. The Autonomous Drive, however, won’t actually wheel around the car while you sit back and drink Starbucks.

A self-driving car would be nice to have, but as the report mentions, they probably won’t be on the road for a very long time. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to study hard for the driving test. Wish me luck!

Featured image courtesy of Becky Stern on Flickr. Nissan Leaf image courtesy of Tennen-Gas on Wikimedia.