If a certain technology giant has its way, that old “Leave the driving to us” Greyhound bus line slogan is going to get a major 21st century punch-up. Sort of the antithesis of that Volkswagen “Drivers Wanted” rallying cry, Google (GOOG) has been looking to make self-driving cars a reality. And now, it appears, the company will have a decent portion of the car-buying public behind it.
According to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates (MHP), 20% of vehicle owners reported they “definitely would” or “probably would” purchase an “autonomous” car — a personal vehicle that drives itself with the use of radar, video cameras, and lasers. Among the most interested in the technology are male drivers between the ages of 18 and 37 and urbanites in traffic heavy areas who get sufficiently less pleasure out of driving.
These drivers say they would pay the estimated market price of an additional $3,000 for robot cars. But as many as 37% of people were enthusiastic about ownership before learning how much the cars would cost.
With so many drivers on the road already on autopilot — drinking, texting, shaving their bikini areas, hurtling into doughnut shops, etc. — computer-controlled cars promise to reduce accidents and save lives.
Though Google has been at work on the automated driving system for years now and has made serious strides in both technology and government lobbying — having convinced Nevada to legalise the cars on its roads — millions of miles of testing are still required, along with sorting out liability issues, before it becomes a commercial reality.
In the meantime, some car companies have offered autonomous driving features including Ford’s (F) park assist option, BMW’s “active” cruise control system, and Volvo’s low-speed collision avoidance system.
Google is opting out of the car manufacturing business. Instead, the company wants to partner with automakers or suppliers. “All options are open. From giving the technology away to licensing it to working with Tier 1s, Tier 2s, working with the OEMs, [or] building a car with them,” said Google project manager Anthony Levandowski to a group of engineers at the SAE World Congress in Detroit this week.
Currently, Google has about a dozen beta vehicles, 10 Toyota (TM) Prius models and at least one Lexus RX hybrid, fitted with the technology.
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