Practically every major automaker, some technology companies, and even university researchers, are working on what could change the automobile experience forever: autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles could be the solution to the ever-present problems of traffic fatalities, traffic congestion, and possibly automobile emissions. The highway is an ever-changing place, with myriad hazards, including various road surfaces, changing weather conditions, the occasional wild animal or debris, and other drivers. Even if you take other drivers out of the equation, are autonomous vehicle systems up to the task?
Nissan is testing some autonomous vehicle features in Japan, in preparation for a 2020 production date, and Tesla Motors is hiring engineers to work out its next-generation autonomous safety [and driving?] systems. Automakers aren’t the only ones, and the field includes researchers at Oxford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], and even technology giant, Google. With so many different groups working on the technology, a couple of questions arise, which KPMG, a audit and advisory firm, set about to answer.
Polling drivers in three cities, Los Angeles, California, on the west coast, Chicago, Illinois, in the center of the country, and Iselin, New Jersey, on the east coast, KPMG asked if drivers would want to drive [ride in?] an autonomous vehicle, and who they would buy it from. The answers were scaled one to ten, and the answers are pretty interesting. West Coast drivers were more interested in autonomous vehicles from the start, ranking 9:10, while East Coast drivers only ranked their interest at 6:10. Once convinced that autonomous vehicles might significantly reduce commute times and traffic congestion, most East Coast drivers were more interested in the technology.
Another interesting result was who drivers might be willing to buy autonomous vehicles from. High-end automakers, such as BMW and Mercedes Benz, were scored at 7.75:10, while mid-range automakers, such as Nissan and Chevrolet, only scored 5:10. Some suggest that luxury car drivers are already used to the high-tech systems already installed on their vehicles, including Lane Keeping, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Heads Up Display, that autonomous vehicle systems would be the next logical step. Even more interesting was that technology companies, such as Google and Apple, scored 8:10. Only one question remains however, “Will Google open up its own dealership network, or will the Lexus RX400hA [“A” for Autonomous] be sold ‘Powered by Google’?”