Lux Research: “The rush to proclaim driverless cars as the near future for personal transport is, simply, wrong”
In a note following the 2014 Automated Vehicle Symposium, Lux Research said: “The rush to proclaim driverless cars as the near future for personal transport is, simply, wrong.” Lux participated in two separate sessions at the conference: the first around regional planning implications, and the second on personal vehicle automation commercialization.
Multiple times, we heard the phrase “But Google says...” uttered in protest, with various attendees citing its demonstration of autonomous vehicles and plans to pilot these vehicles in Northern California.
While many in the automotive value chain echo the conservative adoption rates from Lux’s studies, there was a vocal contingent, ranging from academics to government organizations, that used Google’s recent announcements as a counter argument. Upon further discussion, it was clear that as in any emerging technology, there will be ardent supporters that are predisposed to root for the adoption of the technology. The fact remains that Google’s demonstrations are technically impressive, and do represent a leap forward in autonomous technology; however, pilots and demonstrations are not the same as commercialization. The rush to proclaim driverless cars as the near future for personal transport is, simply, wrong.
While impressive, it is critical to understand that Google’s demonstrations are done in highly controlled environments, with consistent signage, clear weather, and precisely mapped roads (far beyond the level of detail for most locales). For example, Google has mapped the routes for its current vehicles down to 10 cm accuracy, and includes information around road markings—meaning in a place like Boston, where it's common to have leaves or snow on the ground, the car would not be able to operate safely. This makes machine vision one of the key areas to watch for innovation, because significant advances in both performance and cost must come when machines no longer rely on humans to see.
… human distraction and reaction pose a very difficult problem, and the solution may ultimately be an autonomous, driverless car that operates in limited-use cases, such as at low speed on predictable routes.