Are Self-Driving Cars the Future?

Tesla takes the leading role in the development of self-driving cars, just like in that of electric cars. However, more and more automakers are aiming to create a fully automated vehicle, and global players outside the industry, like Google, are also planning to enter this market in the near future. Ford’s Chief Operating Officer has even named the reason why every manufacturer is trying to move in this direction: the company does not want to wait until everyone drives the roads with autopilots. However, there are a number of obstacles before masses of these cars will crowd the roads: social acceptance, insurance issues, pricing, but perhaps the most important is legal regulation.

Testing of self-driving cars is already in an advanced stage. In Hungary the first company received the permission to test on public roads in the summer, so practically anywhere on the roads can be seen a vehicle with autopilot. One of the conditions for the license is to have a real driver in the car, who can occasionally intervene. In California, however, from January 2018 will be no longer required driver presence in the car during testing on the roads. It is expected in the state that self-driving cars may well have been released on the market by 2021.

Different scenarios are outlined by companies preparing forecasts. McKinsey & Company – one of the world’s leading financial advisors – reports in a study published in 2016 that if regulatory and technological issues can be solved, 15% of the cars sold will be fully self-driving by 2030. If a pessimistic scenario occurs and fatal cases will happen during the test period then this figure will be only 5-10%.

In the meantime there are a number of problems to be solved for pioneering manufacturers, just thinking about legal regulation, which not only covers the issue of liability, but even privacy issues, due to the vehicles equipped with many cameras.

Of course the main legal question is who will be responsible if an accident occurs. For example, if a software breaks down in the car, it may be the responsibility of the operator or the question of product liability may arise if the product is defective. Another important issue is road safety, but it is difficult to incorporate a self-driving car into the current regulation, as according to the law the driver is always responsible. The issue of security also covers defense, because these cars can be the targets of hackers, but even terrorists can take control over them easily without proper protection.

However, the current biggest challenge for automakers is to install sensors in vehicles at reasonable prices. Mass production and mass market demand cannot be hoped for, until this is not done.

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