By Lindsay Chappell, Crain News Service
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Aug. 8, 2013) — To hear a panel of industry experts describe it, taking consumers into the world of fully autonomous self-driving cars is going to be a long and challenging trip.
For starters, consumers don't particularly want it.
They experts kicked around the idea during an annual roundtable on the state of the industry, held in Traverse City.
A survey conducted in April for the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures found that 42 percent of men think the autonomous vehicle technology is simply a bad idea. Nearly a fourth of those surveyed said autonomous cars should be "banned," reported Alliance CEO Mitch Bainwol.
In a consumer sampling that might give auto maker legal departments pause, more than a third said that if autonomous vehicles come to market, auto makers and their software suppliers ought to bear legal responsibility for traffic accidents.
More than 80 percent were concerned that computer hackers would take over control of their cars. Bjorn Giesler, project leader for Audi A.G. Piloted Driving program, told an audience that the industry wasn't doing a good job of addressing such security concerns.
"We're all concerned about security," he acknowledged. "But does any auto maker actually have a team of hackers working for them to see if they can break in and kill the system?"
There are also technology roadblocks—satellite mapping, for one, said Scott Winchip, Robert Bosch L.L.C.'s regional president for chassis systems control.
"To get to urban driving," he said, "you will need very detailed map data that measures not in feet, but in inches."
Auto makers also have failed so far to partner with military suppliers that have been working for years on unmanned and self-guided vehicles.
There are also unresolved questions, including what happens when an autonomous system clicks off, handing power back to the driver—but the driver is incapacitated, asleep, inebriated or injured.
Mr. Winchip said the obvious solution will be to immediately stop the vehicle. But what impact a stopped vehicle might have on a highway of moving traffic remains a question for the future.
Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.