GM says we'll have autonomous vehicles much sooner than you think

Or will we?

General Motors CEO Mary Barra recently said that "we need to have kind of a revolutionary and an evolutionary strategy around driver assistance all the way to full Level 4, Level 5 autonomy," and she added that the average American could potentially buy a fully autonomous car by 2030.

If I had a dollar for every time somebody said "autonomous cars are coming sooner than we think", I'd now be able to buy an autonomous car. Interestingly, if I had a dollar for every time somebody said the exact opposite of that, I'd now have more or less the same amount of money. It seems to me that car makers engage in this debate from a biased (which is understandable) and somehow politicized point of view, but at the end of the day every time we talk about self-driving cars, it really boils down to three things: legality, applicability and technology.

Even if (or when) we reached a point where self-driving technology is 100% ready - and we're still far from that - complicated legal and practical challenges would remain. I can see at least three. Firstly, different countries would require specific pieces of legislation to make self-driving cars - and therefore "self-driving traffic" - legal; secondly, there are several countries where this just looks impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future for various reasons (geography, population density, roads quality, etc); and thirdly, you'd need coordination between countries, especially countries with land borders.

Tesla's Autopilot, for example, isn't the same in the US as it is in other places. I remember trying to test it in Italy and the car wouldn't drive itself, it would require constant feedback from the driver, i.e. me, to make sure I was awake and alert.

As things stand, it's a race between VW, Honda, Tesla and GM, which is counting on Cruise - its self-driving subsidiary - to make progress to beat competition. GM and Cruise developed something called Super Cruise, an hands-free driver-assist that the companies have been testing in San Francisco. I guess we gotta wait and see. I wouldn't hold my breath, though.

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Comments (17)

  • For these people that want autonomous vehicles (or can’t drive) they should get an Uber. Let the rest of us who want to drive, drive.

      1 month ago
    • Exactly. Also think of all the jobs that will be lost because of this tech. What ever happened to having fun in life? Everything has to be automated these days, kind of sucks.

        1 month ago
    • Bring back analogue.

        1 month ago
  • My windows computer can't run itself faultless for week after week

    Idk how to expect cars to do that and if they do crash, who's fault is it?

      1 month ago
  • Yes. There are already autonomous buses running around on open roads.

      1 month ago
    • it kinda depends on what we mean when we say "autonomous". If we're talking about vehicles that require no human interaction to function in certain scenarios for specific (routine) tasks, that's already happening. If we're talking about...

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        1 month ago
  • Limited autonomy, within 'ring fenced' areas is already here, but 'go anywhere' autonomy is not yet to be had yet. The Tesla system is most likely to be out first, not least because it has absolutely millions of miles of driving that has accumulated 'edge cases', those weird happenings that only humans can easily understand. What is being spoken of as ''autonomous ' driving is in reality rather crude and can easily be caught out. To keep things safe, the vehicle goes down to a crawl as it struggles to cope with a complexity its programming is incapable of solving. Many grand claims are being touted by several designs, but they very much rely upon a 'map' in their memory, which is of limited use when stuff happens in the real world, like land closures badly parked cars, different road markings, new signage, etc, etc. These are not 'intelligent' systems, just rather sophisticated 'bump and steer' like toy cars use. Lidar, that greatly touted view mapping data acquisition method, can only give very course granular images that are a very poor representation of the real world. This is where Tesla (for example), was nearly ten years ago. That Company soon dismissed this technology as inadequate to the task. Without wishing to so readily dismiss their competition, I would hope and expect that the intervening years have improved this technology significantly since Tesla dismissed it so quickly. The thing is though, that the Tesla system is lightyears ahead of these competitors and is still being fine-tuned before release to the general public. Something as transformational as this, must be reliably vastly superior to any human in car control. Traffic accidents are impossible to eliminate entirely, but these mechanisms must make them as unlikely as that old fellow down the road who has never had a bump in fifty years of driving.

      1 month ago
  • I am still waiting for the day autonomous cars get hacked into by terrorists as many cyber attacks have happened in recent years one recently on a oil line in Carolina in the States which has shut it down causing chaos with fuel supplies across America. You may say it will never happen, but with more cars being connectable with our phones and Google it does put the risk factor up as we all use our phones to online shop and we mostly use google and some of there services to look things up and it only takes a cyber terrorist to hack into a popular website to access details on phones which may have the codes to operate the car programming. Remember Google have had hackers get past their firewalls stealing and taking over google accounts in the recent years.

      1 month ago