SDCs–Self-Driving Cars

The most exciting development everyone in this room is going to live to see is driverless cars.

USC Professor Jeffrey Cole to AARP Ideas@50+ audience.

One of the biggest fears of getting older is losing the ability to drive. For those with enough money, that problem is getting closer to being solved. Mercedes Benz already offers enhanced “Intelligent Drive,” and GM has just announced that starting in the 2017 model year, Cadillacs will come equipped with an auto-pilot mode, which they will eventually offer on all their brands.

Many other manufacturers, including Nissan and Acura, have self-driving cars in the works, although the first generation offerings might better be described as “assisted driving,” since the driver in still in control of when to use the technology. For example, the Cadillac, as described in the Los Angeles Times, relies on the driver to determine when assistance is needed: “The system will allow drivers to switch the vehicle into a semi-automated mode in which it will automatically keep the car in its lane, making necessary steering adjustments, and autonomously trigger braking and speed control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.”

Most famously, Google has been piloting self-driving cars for several years, leading both the California legislature and insurance agencies to start thinking about questions of liability in accidents.

To the charge that self-driving cars wouldn’t be able to make a life-saving prediction, such as realizing that a child running on the sidewalk was headed towards the street, an LA Times commentator named “gmartin75” replied, “My 2013 Fusion has 360° sensors and alerts me to hazards all around, including blind spot and rear cross traffic (vehicular and pedestrian). A little girl on a scooter darted out from a parked car this past weekend and my car alerted me before I saw her.”

As aging slows reaction times and dulls senses, cars with automated assistance will be a boon to the autonomy of seniors. Nevertheless, despite Professor Cole’s optimism, business analysis firm IHS predicts that fully self-driven cars won’t be available until 2030. You can judge if they really will be available in your lifetime. Still, it’s best to get ready for a new acronym: SDC’s (self-driving cars).

For both current examples of self-driving cars and futuristic prototypes, watch the report below from CBS Sunday Morning:


For everybody’s nightmare scenario of a self-driving car, see this clip from HBO’s Silicon Valley.