The self-driving car: it's coming
Govt pledges a £10m prize for driverless car research. TG's Paul Horrell investigates
Posted: 04 Dec 2013
Funnily enough, I'd met Prof Herrtwich nine years ago and asked if people wanted autonomous driving. He said: "We currently cannot sense that the demand would exist." I'd felt comforted by that. No need for cars to take over from us drivers, so the tech wasn't being actively pursued. Anyway, industry people were wary because they were afraid of being sued by customers whose automated cars had crashed. And they thought, back then, that there would need to be new infrastructure - road signs with WiFi beacons or somesuch - to direct cars around. Now it's all changed. Technology will soon be available for cars to read the road themselves. The US Army has devised vehicles capable of driving through enemy cities without having vulnerable soldiers aboard. Google has self-steering Priuses bimbling around California. And the carmakers refuse to get left behind. Mercedes says it'll be first. GM says much the same. Nissan has said "before 2020". Tesla is hiring engineers for the same task.
So self-driving cars are coming. But do we want them? Herrtwich's answer now is very different from what it was in 2004: "Customers are waking up to it. In the past two years Google did a lot of good work, no question. It made people realise what was possible. And if it's possible they say 'I'd like to have it.'"