No Driver Necessary
The potential advantages of self-driving vehicles are massive. With more than 90 percent
of U.S. road collisions involving human error, according to the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration, they could save tens of thousands of lives annually.
By saving lives, self-driving cars could also save a great deal of money. In the United
States alone, they could prevent US$190 billion in annual damage and health costs, according to McKinsey, which sees mass adoption of self-driving cars in just 15 years’ time. With
the autonomous vehicle industry expected to be worth US$87 billion by 2030, according
to Lux Research, they could also prove highly lucrative to organizations that dominate the
So driverless-vehicle projects have quickly sprouted across the
auto and tech industries. Most carmakers plan to have partially self-driving cars in their showrooms by 2020, with fully autonomous
vehicles available by 2025, The Toronto Star reported in March.
“Piloted driving is one of the most important development
fields at Audi,” Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s development chief,
told Bloomberg News. “It’s key on the way toward accident-
Last year, Mercedes-Benz completed its Future Truck 2025
prototype project. The vehicle’s cameras, sensors and radar systems maintain lane position, track distance from other vehicles
and monitor surroundings—turning the truck driver into a
“transport manager,” according to Mercedes.
Auto giants such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, as well as
tech titans such as Google and Uber, are all pursuing projects to
develop self-driving car prototypes. Google has contracted Roush
Enterprises of Detroit, Michigan, USA to build 150 self-driving
car prototypes. The company plans to complete a self-driving
vehicle by 2020, Chris Urmson, the head of Google’s autonomous-vehicle project, told The
Wall Street Journal.
Yet these projects can only realize the benefit of saved lives and costs if their project
teams can successfully demonstrate to the end user that the technology is both functional and safe. Neither carmakers nor tech companies can achieve that alone, so they’re
as well as next-
—Georg Stefan Hagemann, Daimler
Trucks, Stuttgart, Germany
PHOTO BY KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GETTYIMAGES