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Some of the Roadblocks in Front of Driverless Cars

By Motley Fool Staff – Mar 9, 2016 at 10:06PM

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Is making a licensed driver be in the car useful?

Although the self-driving cars from Alphabet's (GOOGL 1.90%) (GOOG 1.56%) Google have collectively logged over 1.3 million miles, there are still many speed bumps preventing them from carting us around.

In this segment of Tech Industry Focus, The Motley Fool's Dylan Lewis and Sean O'Reilly lay out one of the more important ones ahead of project director Chris Urmson's address at SXSW.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on March 4, 2016. 

Sean O'Reilly: What are you hoping to hear from him, is the bottom line.

Dylan Lewis: I think one of the biggest things is the regulatory hurdles that are currently facing driverless cars and how they're going to overcome that and just sweeten up a little bit to the legislative environment. I think one of the really prime examples of this is, I think there may be a handful of states that have autonomous vehicle laws on the books right now. California being one of them. They seem to have laws that were very conducive to innovation and driverless cars, that kind of thing. Then recently California, their DMV, proposed a draft rule that would require driverless cars to have a licensed driver in them at all times. This was something that happened, I think, in late 2015.

In a Medium post, [Google self-driving-car chief Chris] Urmson said, "Instead of putting a ceiling on the potential of self-driving cars, let's have the courage to imagine what California would be like if we could live without the shackles of stressful commutes, wasted hours, and restricted mobility for those who want independence that the automobile has always represented."

So on one hand, needing a licensed driver makes sense if the car needs that, or if there's an override that would allow someone to operate the car, but I think one of the really important things that driverless cars enable are people that are either too old or physically cannot drive to get around and be independent. This type of rule, this type of legislation, is a barrier in them I think reaching people that would be most benefited by driverless cars.

Some of it is just some of these very small-case examples, but more broadly what is the company doing and what are some of the major hurdles that they're going to have to overcome more on the legal side, the regulatory side to get and reach some of these estimates that we've seen? I remember seeing that IHS, Institute of Highway Safety, I think that's what the acronym stands for, estimated that by 2035 10% of light vehicles, 10% of the light vehicles sold will be driverless.

O'Reilly: I'm down.

Lewis: That's awesome. That's pretty soon actually. That's not too far off.

O'Reilly: Twenty years, I'll be, yeah.

Lewis: To have that kind of market share, but obviously for that to happen there are a lot of issues that they're going to have to get through. Just getting a little bit more clarity on what the biggest roadblocks are and how they're planning to address them.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Dylan Lewis owns shares of Alphabet (A shares). Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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