Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk has been reported as saying the electric automaker wants to produce a car capable of operating on “auto-pilot” in the next three years.
Auto-pilot is the metaphorical term Musk uses for driverless, or autonomous vehicles, and in this case, an estimated 90-percent of control would be delegated to the car’s computer.
In throwing its hat in the ring, Tesla has joined Google, Daimler, Nissan, GM and others as it sets a more ambitious time frame over larger developers – and quicker than analysts’ estimates of 10-15 years until the technology is accepted fully.
Tesla’s online job board is currently advertising for someone to help lead “Tesla’s effort to pioneer fully automated driving.”
Unknown is how laws would be changed to allow for future cars running on “auto-pilot” and how consumers and the insurance lobby would respond.
Presently, the European Union requires cars to be under direct control of their operators. On the opposite extreme, in May 2012, Nevada issued Google’s driverless car a state driver’s license.
Pros and cons perceived by the insurance industry – as well as potential consumers – include concerns over whether the technology would be truly as safe and reliable as promoted.
A possible plus for the insurance industry is cars, unlike humans, could be programmed to always obey laws, and driverless vehicles may even earn a better track record than humans.
Long-term concerns by civil libertarians include whether human rights to operate their own vehicles might be eroded over coming years.
If a case could be made that driverless cars are actually able to operate with a better accident-free record, concerns are that a case could be made to limit humans permission to drive one step at a time.
Those in favor see the potential for the option to switch off their attention with no risk as a decided plus.