At the Toyota Motor manufacturing plant in Mississippi, a self-driving vehicle called OTTO 1500 zips around the facility delivering tires, dodging forklifts, pedestrians, and other vehicles driven by humans. Although this is a major tech development in the Magnolia State, drivers should not expect to be sharing the road with these types of vehicles anytime soon. Autonomous vehicle technology is developing at a very fast pace, but the current predictions about driverless cars crowding American highways over the next few years are probably overly optimistic.
Some industry insiders are predicting that self-driving cars will hit dealership showrooms by 2020. Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that this will happen even sooner; in fact, he has hinted at being ready to deliver a driverless electric car as soon as regulators allow him to do so. Companies like General Motors, Google and Intel are pouring billions of dollars into the technology. Google has been testing its vehicles for quite some time now.
The handful of accidents that have occurred while testing autonomous vehicles have been attributed to human error. Notwithstanding this impressive safety record, legal analysts predict that we may have to wait a few decades before autonomous vehicles are commercially available to all drivers.
There is strong evidence to believe that self-driving cars will lessen the pain and suffering that often results from major head-on collisions or from texting and driving accidents, but current predictions are not taking into account the numerous regulatory and legislative issues that will have to be ironed out before autonomous vehicle technology becomes standard. Conservative estimates that call for these vehicles arriving on dealerships by 2050 are more realistic.