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Self-Driving Cars Reach a Fork in the Road, and Automakers Take Different Routes


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Part of Google's fleet of driverless cars.

Automakers are taking divergent approaches to the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Credit: plantizen.com

Automakers are taking divergent approaches to the development and deployment of driverless vehicles, with Ford supporting Google's plan to transition directly to a fully autonomous car without traditional controls, while other major manufacturers push for more incremental adoption.

The latter course is the more prudent one for Carnegie Mellon University professor Raj Rajkumar, who says human drivers' tendency toward distraction and a lack of maturity in the automated systems pose too great a danger.

Audi's Brad Stertz agrees, noting, "we don't think it's wise to throw drivers into an environment they don't completely understand or trust. That just invites misuse." Stertz says Audi plans to initially keep steering wheels in its semi-automated vehicles, while a "driver-availability system" will monitor motorists for signs of distraction. Audi's cars also will only work hands-free on controlled-access highways, handing control to the driver when the vehicle's speed reaches 35 m.p.h.

Meanwhile, General Motors' Kevin Kelly says the company is looking into an on-demand, autonomous ride-sharing network in which cars will have steering wheels, acceleration and brake pedals, and a safety driver or pilot, to make consumers more comfortable. However, there is disagreement as to how comfortable consumers are with the concept of driverless vehicles, with some surveys noting consumers with concerns about such technologies tended to skew older.

From The Washington Post
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