Overlooked Driverless Car Obstacles

If you follow the news around driverless cars, the articles are constantly citing the key obstacles/challenges associated with driverless cars’ introduction to society. Standard obstacles cited include: technology readiness, cost of the vehicles/technology, government regulations, liability, privacy and data protections, and security protections.  While these are significant hurdles, I believe that they will all be addressed….especially since they are receiving so much international attention. There are a few additional obstacles/challenges that I believe are worth considering:

Obstacle #1: The Media! A google driverless car hit a bus while it was driving at 2 miles per hour and it caused no injuries and yet this incident made international news!  A sample article can be found here. Google’s driverless cars have traveled thousands of test miles and this is the first accident that Google has cited as being the fault of their car; these statistics are incredibly positive when you compare that to human drivers’ accident rates. I fear that messaging coming from the media could only perpetuate people’s fear and uncertainty around driverless cars….and delay and/or eliminate people’s willingness to get in them.

Obstacle #2: Other Industries’ Lobbying Efforts! Driverless cars are going to have a huge (potentially negative) impact on many seemingly unrelated industries, such as the trucking, hotel, and retail industries. If and when representatives of these industries acknowledge the significant consequences to their industry, their lobbying folks may put significant pressure on regulators to slow and/or block their usage.

Obstacle #3: The Technology Developers Themselves! Government agencies at all levels are grappling with how to regulate the industry and they are getting potentially conflicting input from many of the technology developers (e.g., Google, Honda, Volvo, etc). Government’s role in regulating this technology continues to be contested because the government is getting different messages from the industry. Should steering wheels be required? Should vehicles and/or people require licenses? The technology developers do not have a unified perspective, which only makes developing regulations that much more complicated!

Any other obstacles to add to this list?

About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.
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4 Responses to Overlooked Driverless Car Obstacles

  1. paddlepool says:

    I reckon on the first count, media (perhaps through Hollywood movies) will be crucial to better present the vision of a driverless car future along with how it would be experienced by the average user (passenger, driver, pedestrian, cyclist, even motorcyclist) – perhaps akin to how science fiction inspired people to believe we really could land a man on the moon. This could cover multiple different scenarios such as driverless mixing with human driven vehicles; totally driverless networks, urban versus rural etc. These would have to include the social politics of how pedestrians and cyclists are incorporated e.g. is it socially acceptable to just step out in front of a driverless car just because you know it can stop in time? If so some of the time, where and when?. Probably not dissimilar to questions first raised when the first automobiles came on the scene.

    Having said all that, I doubt the automobile inventors had any idea we would end up with what we have now in our cities. But I think we know from that experience, to now try and better foresee the consequences of this new technology. I personally think that is where more resources could be put – movies for the people.


  2. Good post!

    On Thursday, April 14, 2016, Driving Towards Driverless Cars wrote:

    > Lauren Isaac posted: “If you follow the news around driverless cars, the > articles are constantly citing the key obstacles/challenges associated with > driverless cars’ introduction to society. Standard obstacles cited include: > technology readiness, cost of the vehicles/technolog” >


    • plannerjim says:

      Lauren, I enjoyed reading your post about obstacles to driverless cars introduction, including your list of possibilities, and the post from a reader about the possible role of movies. I would add two items; (1) the fact that the many possible use concepts of driverless cars are never specifically defined, such as short distance and long distance freeway operations; arterial street use, urban center travel, etc.; (2) and related, what the processes of “proof of concept” will consist of, which seemingly is already incorporated in government obstacles.




  3. Pingback: A Few More Thoughts on the Tesla Accident | Driving Towards Driverless Cars

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