Self-Driving Technology Poses Lots of Questions

Although dri­ver­less cars are set to be on U.S. roads by 2020 in some form, the ques­tions con­cern­ing imple­men­ta­tion, reg­u­la­tion and stan­dard­iza­tion are still loom­ing for reg­u­la­tors.

Find out more about the obsta­cles self-dri­ving vehi­cles still face.

The world has moved quick­ly from won­der at the idea of dri­ver­less cars to impa­tient expec­ta­tion. The Cadil­lac SRX zip­ping around a test track in sub­ur­ban Detroit is flash­ing a sign: Not so fast.

The car can pilot itself at high­way speed while the per­son in the driver’s seat eats a ham­burg­er.

Google’s not the only com­pa­ny work­ing on self-dri­ving cars. There are cars already on the road with fea­tures to park them­selves, adapt to traf­fic speeds on cruise con­trol, and avoid acci­dents. And Nis­san says it’ll have a ful­ly self-dri­ving vehi­cle on the road by 2020.

Yet the first ver­sions of Gen­er­al Motors Co. autonomous vehi­cles, due out by 2020, will dri­ve them­selves only on con­trolled-access high­ways, such as an inter­state. Don’t count on them to avoid acci­dents on their own; it will be up to a licensed dri­ver behind the wheel to avoid the deer run­ning out from the road­side. The rea­sons are parts tech­no­log­i­cal, reg­u­la­to­ry and psy­cho­log­i­cal.

“The technology’s prob­a­bly doable, but how do we imple­ment it, how do we reg­u­late it and how do we stan­dard­ize it?” said Michelle Krebs, senior ana­lyst with auto researcher Edmunds.com, based in San­ta Mon­i­ca, Cal­i­for­nia, in an inter­view. What’s more, “there are cer­tain peo­ple who want to be in con­trol and they don’t want dri­ving tak­en away from them.”

The cau­tious­ness in devel­op­ing ful­ly autonomous tech­nol­o­gy, like that envi­sioned by Google, Inc., reflects what GM offi­cials say is a real­is­tic view of what con­sumers will accept and the rules of the road will allow.

U.S. auto-safe­ty reg­u­la­tors in May released their first draft of an autonomous-vehi­cles pol­i­cy. Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tor David Strick­land has said so-called active safe­ty tech­nolo­gies that lead to self-dri­ving cars are the next step in cut­ting U.S. high­way deaths.

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