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Self-Driving Cars: Five Reasons it Works for Electrics

The era of the autonomous car may soon be upon us. General Motors says it will be fielding them by 2020. Audi, BMW and Volkswagen are all believers (something in the German water?) and Audi has raced a TT up Pikes Peak. Nevada and California have legalized self-driving cars (with human monitors aboard), and other states are considering legislation.

One in five drivers say they want self-driving cars, says a JD Power survey of 17,400 consumers last March. I attended a seminar on autonomous driving in Washington on October 23. With representatives from Volvo, Google, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Stanford Law School and the state of Nevada, there was a clear consensus that we’re heading for a future with the car in charge, though there was quite a spread on the timeline. Google thinks it’s around the corner, while others think 20 years will pass before full consumer acceptance.

“Some features are already available,” said Peter Mertens of Volvo, which rolled out a series of adaptive cruise control functions to keep you in your lane, avoiding collisions. There are options to have your car follow the one up ahead in traffic jams, and avoid animals on the road. David Strickland, the administrator of NHTSA, said the agency is getting involved by drafting standards for progressive levels of autonomous control—leading up to having your hands folded in your lap, or playing with your iPhone while you drive.


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