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Stanford Panel Experts Predict Driverless Cars 10 Years Away

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【Summary】Last night at Stanford University, some of the brightest minds in the autonomous vehicle industry gathered to talk about the technology, practicality and safety of self-driving cars.

Jeremy Carlton    May 25, 2018 12:15 PM PT
Stanford Panel Experts Predict Driverless Cars 10 Years Away

PALO ALTO, Calif., — Last night at Stanford University, some of the brightest minds in the autonomous vehicle industry gathered to talk about the technology, practicality and safety of self-driving cars.

During a panel session sponsored by the school's US-Asia Technology Management Center, industry experts predicted that driverless cars will be a reality within ten years—with some caveats.

Among the panelist was Sterling Anderson, co-founder and chief product officer of self-driving startup Aurora, and Alexei Andreev, Managing Director, Autotech Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on autonomous technology.

The panel members are involved in creating and financing self-driving vehicle technologies, say passengers will soon be able to get into a car and tell it where to take them.

"High complexity, low speeds, 20 mph downtown, well-mapped areas; we'll see it pretty quickly," said Alexei Andreev of Autotech Ventures.

The technology may soon be here but industry experts admit the public still has a way to go before feeling comfortable with the idea of driverless cars. A Recent poll by Reuters shows that two-thirds of Americans are uncomfortable about the idea of riding in a self-driving car, one of many challenges for companies spending billions of dollars on the development of autonomous vehicles.

"Some companies are architecting and have very safe vehicles, but someone else that hasn't done the relative due diligence goes in, does something bad, and that affects the entire industry," said Ivan Mihov of Zoox, a self-driving taxi startup that has raised over $250 million.

Federal investigators on Thursday released their initial findings in a deadly crash involving an Uber driverless test vehicle and a pedestrian in Arizona in March. The onboard computers detected the person, who was pushing a bicycle, six seconds before the collision. But the system did not attempt to make an emergency stop. The accident brought attention to the safety of self-driving technology.

It's still unknown how much the public will tolerate this type of accident or any others.

"Clearly, if you have a massive accident with a lot of people dying in one particular event, it will likely have negative impact," Andreev said. "But on the other hand, you have school shootings, and nothing happens."

The aim for the industry, leaders say, is to advance the technology so much that people will feel as safe getting into a driverless car as they do getting into an elevator. One expert says he believes driverless semi trucks might actually be adopted first because there is such a need for drivers.

Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors believes autonomous cars will be here sooner than ten years, and they will disrupt the automotive industry entirely.

In an interview with Quartz last November, Lutz predicted that within five years, he expects, people will start selling their cars for scrap or trade them in for autonomous passenger modules as self-driving cars take over transportation. He added, within 20 years human-driven vehicles will be legislated off highways.


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