Ready or not, self-driving cars on the way

Much has been written about vast changes coming to what we used to refer to as an “automobile” and mostly from the standpoint of new technology that has been embedded into the framework of the vehicle. Will we soon be inside this electronic, self-driven vehicle on our major highways? Will the general car-buying public acquiesce and forgo the pleasure of personally driving your own vehicle on a shopping spree, a vacation or simply a nice “Sunday drive?” Probably some will and some won’t … depending on our previous habits and each individual age group. As the new generation “takes charge” (the Millennials ), the answer is probably likely, and with some of the exceptions mentioned above.

All automotive companies now have such a vehicle in the prototype and test mode, and some newcomers to the industry, i.e. Google! There are several pros and cons to the self-driving vehicle: One could read the paper, review mail, watch a movie or do some texting. Some have also indicated the advantage for handicapped individuals who may not have the ability to manually drive a car.

On the other hand, we lose the pleasure of being behind the wheel; some are still concerned about the safety issue and the insurance liability concern if an accident should occur – is the vehicle what’s insured or is it the occupant of the vehicle? There has also been an express concern over someone being able to “hack” into the electronics and possibly cause harm.

There are many policy makers and regulators who have expressed concerns over the self-driving car and asked the pertinent question: “Is technology too far ahead of the law?” Many of the so-called experts in the area have indicated that it may be somewhere around 2020 before consumers will be ready for the first self-driving vehicle.

From a marketing standpoint there is always the question of the consumer adoption cycle in terms of acceptability for a product — specifically how long will it take for the general car buying public to give the self-driving vehicle a green light, and what percentage of the consumer base will ever accept this new technology? No one knows and only time will tell.

George R. Cook