Why Self-Driving Cars are Years Away

Google's Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin pose with one of the company's self-driving cars. Note the cumbersome sensor unit on the roof. Mass-produced self-driving cars will have sensors integrated into the car's body. Photo credit: Google.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) has wowed the world with its self-driving cars, and the search-engine giant would love to commercialize the technology. It's not alone: Automakers from General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) to Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) have recently confirmed that they have systems that will drive your car for you -- at least sometimes -- under development.

That "sometimes" qualifier is important, though. While a car that can drive itself represents advanced technology, a lot of that technology is already mainstream. Many luxury cars, and even some mass-market models like Ford's (NYSE: F  ) Fusion, are already available with the special radar sensors and cameras that will be key parts of the self-driving cars of the future.

Technology, it turns out, probably isn't the biggest thing holding back self-driving cars. Instead, as Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, it's the legal framework around self-driving cars -- or rather, the lack of one -- that has made automakers very cautious about rushing this new technology to market.

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  • Report this Comment On September 29, 2013, at 2:38 PM, coll1951 wrote:

    Self-driving cars only work, when all cars on the road are self-driving.

  • Report this Comment On September 29, 2013, at 5:06 PM, iefbr14 wrote:

    I don't like it when I am lured into opening what I think is a text article I can blow through in a minute or less, only to find an embedded video that I didn't want and that will take considerably longer to view.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2013, at 4:07 PM, robertheron wrote:

    Instead of spending zillions of bucks increasing the "intelligence" of cars, why don't we spend a far more modest amount increasing the intelligence of drivers, by means of more stringent driving tests before letting them loose on the roads? Why is technology bent on making life easier for morons?

  • Report this Comment On June 29, 2014, at 2:56 PM, wereew wrote:

    Self-driving cars are supposedly going to be a "shift" but not everyone can use them. Therefore, some people will have no mode to travel if they take over the market completely. Some people become impaired from magnetic and wireless fields. To sit in such a car would make them ill. In fact, Radiofrequency and Microwave Sickness used to only occur in radar and telephone operators. It is a growing scourge that is yet to be recognized and averted. Mechanical non-transmitting cars and other devices work fine. Without these options a whole group of people will be left behind.

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