Earlier this week, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla cars could run on “full autopilot” within the next 5 years. This claim comes much sooner than most experts were predicting, many of whom emphasize self-driving cars won't be commercialized until 2025. This raises two questions: how much longer will it take to build self-driving cars, and what speed bumps will manufacturers encounter in their pursuits?
Earlier this year, Google (GOOG) unveiled a self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals. However, under California DMV law, this car would be considered illegal because drivers must be able to take “immediate physical control” of a vehicle, if needed. Surprisingly, in this instance, illegalities don't stem from the actual automation of the car.
Although this automated concept car would not be considered legal under California laws and regulations, Google has tested another self-driving vehicle that has logged over one million kilometers since its 2009 development. The car has even passed the first US State Self-Driving Test without any major demerits.
Although most people remain hesitant about driverless cars, roadways will actually be much safer. Studies have shown that 93% of auto accidents are the result of driver error. In fact, the only two accidents that the Google self-driving car encountered were the result of human operation.
Given Google's success, the company has since announced that it will officially begin non-human assisted driving trials. This milestone in self-driving car development will be held on federal land, at Moffett Field, so that Google can ignore California state laws.
Other automobile brands are also focused on the future of driving, and are racing to build their own self-driving automobiles. Audi and Cadillac have both announced they are pursuing the development of autonomous driving features that will be added to their cars by 2016. More promising, Musk also stated "in the long-term, all Tesla cars will have auto-pilot capabilities." Just think, no more waiting in traffic!