Self-driving cars: Not automatic yet

Tesla’s current level-two Autopilot requires drivers to remain alert and ready to act, with hands on the wheel.

Sept. 14. Tesla founder Elon Musk says his company will be able to make its vehicles completely autonomous by the end of this year, complete with “level-five” autonomy which requires no driver input.

Tesla’s current level-two Autopilot requires drivers to remain alert and ready to act, with hands on the wheel.

“I’m extremely confident that level five—or essentially complete autonomy—will happen and I think will happen very quickly…there are are no fundamental challenges remaining,” Musk said.

But are we ready for self-driving cars? Who gets the speeding ticket? When the kids are out of control in the back seat, will it pull over for a lecture from Dad?

“There are many small problems,” Musk allows.



Jack Salzman, owner of Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Cornelius, suggests we’re are “at least a decade or more” away from most vehicle on the road having autonomous capabilities once you factor in the current average age of all vehicles on the road today is over 10 years old.

“Conceptually I believe there is great enthusiasm for autonomous driving because it may be able to greatly lower the risk of auto-related accidents,” said Salzman.

The younger generation, meanwhile, has grown up on electric-scooters and UBER, so autonomous vehicles are less of a leap for them.

Questions & Answers

With the help of WalletHub, we interviewed Nigel Wilson, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on self-driving cars


When do you think there will be more self-driving cars than human-driven?

Wilson: 2050.

Considering all potential consequences, do you think that automated vehicles will be a net benefit or net negative for society?

Wilson: In the long run, AVs will be a net benefit for society.

When evaluating the best cities for drivers, what are the top five indicators?

Wilson: Accidents per VMT, cost per VMT, average speed.

What can local authorities do to reduce traffic and improve safety?

Wilson: Road pricing, better enforcement of violations on speeding, obeying signals, and illegal parking.

How will the COVID-19 pandemic change traffic levels and the way Americans commute?

Wilson: Less commuting, more working from home will mean less rush-hour congestion and higher speeds, partially offset by lower ridership on transit. Movement of homes away from the central city will mean longer journeys, so the frequency of commuting will decrease, but the length of the typical commute will continue to increase.


One Response to “Self-driving cars: Not automatic yet”

  1. As the owner of 3 local (LKN) airport private car services, I keep a close eye and ear to the near-future potential of autonomous vehicles. I read your article, and I would hope Mr. Salzman’s 10 year projection to come true, but he and every other dealership has a vested interest in keeping us buying and driving our own vehicles as opposed to subscribing to an app that can send a driverless car to your door. (Ford is selling 180 day subscription “leases” now to nudge the market in that direction).
    As for Mr. Musk, he may very well have level 5 algorithms ready by Christmas, as well as Google and Amazon, however any driverless vehicle system will require Federal and State certifications (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety System #108, for example.) This political football will take years to be approved, after years of federal testing and peer reviews? Without driverless telematics added to EVERY car and truck produced, (14M/yr) the cost/price efficiencies make driverless vehicles unaffordable. How many years did it take to get safety belts approved or the decades the Big 3 fought against Air Bags.
    And then there is Uber and Lyft who can’t financially survive WITH human drivers, and the car manufacturers can’t survive without human Buyers! Watch the heavy truck industry as first adopters of driverless “trains” of rigs if you want a true timing barometer for driverless vehicles.

    Posted by Bob Heil | September 14, 2020, 5:37 pm

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