It's safe to say that technology fans around the world have been wondering since we saw Google's first self-driving car when vehicles with the technology might be available for consumers to purchase. While many estimates don't expect self-driving vehicle technology to be widely available until 2020 or later, Google's self-driving car project lead believes it could be much sooner than that.
According to Anthony Levandowski, Google product manager for autonomous driving, the search giant plans to launch the self-driving car technology in the next five years. However, he does explain that what form the technology is released in remains to be determined. Currently only a handful of states allow the operation of autonomous vehicles on its roadways.
Despite Google's optimistic take on self-driving vehicles, things will likely be delayed by the federal government. Senior associate director for vehicle safety at the NHTSA, Dan Smith, noted that it will be a major challenge for the government to come up with a performance standard that is objective and testable for different scenarios where failure in autonomous driving systems could occur. Smith notes that part of the underlying challenge is to determine if the government should be looking at underlying electronics.
Automotive manufacturers are already working on similar autonomous driving technologies specifically designed to be used in traffic. Supporters of autonomous vehicles continue to maintain that this sort of technology would reduce distracted driving and could lead to fewer accidents, less highway fatalities, and reduced insurance rates. While Google continues to expect a 3-5 year timeframe for autonomous vehicles, other suggestions taking into account how slowly the federal government moves are looking towards 2020 or later as a more reasonable timeframe.