The Autonomous Car Revolution is Upon Us

June 15th, 2018 | by RON BELL

The Autonomous Car Revolution is Upon Us

If you think a future full of self-driving cars is still decades away, think again – despite the recent bad press, a fully autonomous car fleet will hit  American roads sooner rather than later.

Self-driving Car Industry Woes

A quick glance at the recent news concerning autonomous cars may give the impression that the industry has just been through its worst period in a very long time. 3 out of 4 American drivers say they fear self-driving cars. Such fears are likely fueled by the recent reports of robot cars getting into serious accidents while in autonomous mode. In late March, an autonomous car operated by Uber in Tempe, Arizona, killed a pedestrian – the very first such incident ever recorded. In May, a Tesla car driving in its autonomous Autopilot mode crashed into the back of a fire truck stopped at a red light. In this accident – which happened in Salt Lake City, Utah – no one was killed but both drivers sustained injuries. In addition, out of the four crashes involving Tesla vehicles currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), two of them are related to the cars driving in the Autopilot mode.

Crashes and accidents, however, are not the only problem Tesla is now facing. The company that used to wow both it’s investors and the general public has now come under increased criticism. It’s shares are sinking, Model 3 production has come to a halt, and its financial report for the first quarter of 2018 mentions a $710m net loss – the biggest in Tesla’s history. Until very recently, the company has been poised as one of the biggest players in the autonomous vehicles industry. Now some wonder if it will even manage to stay afloat.

The Future of The Industry

However, neither Tesla’s current problems nor the reports of car crashes involving autonomous vehicles should be taken as demonstrative of the state of the industry as a whole. Even though covered at great length by the media, these accidents seem to have little to no real bearing on the future of self-driving vehicles. By every metric, the autonomous car market is poised to keep growing and the revolution may come faster than expected. More and more car companies are developing robot cars and the older players continue to implement ever bolder ideas. For example, in March, Waymo – Google’s sister company developing autonomous vehicle solutions – announced they had purchased 20,000 self-driving cars from Jaguar. The company also announced that these vehicles will be up and running on American roads, making a million trips each day by 2020 – less than two years from now. This means that – as The Atlantic put it in an article covering the purchase – “in two years, the United States will have entered an entirely new phase in robotics and technology”.

The implications of such a massive influx of autonomous cars onto American roads are as obvious as they are many. In the next week’s blog post, we will consider how autonomous cars will change the approach to car accident liability as well as how they will affect the car insurance industry.

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