Inside the driverless car market

Inside the driverless car market

Technology analysts are predicting the driverless car will soon be a reality, as leading corporations including Google, Uber, & Tesla continue to make strides in this area. Given this, both policy makers and business leaders will need to act prudently in order to balance the benefits of the technology with mitigating risks in the near future.

Over the past few years, the taxicab industry has been revolutionized by transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. While these ride-hailing app companies have brought about meaningful societal change with respect to convenience and culture, the real industry shift will take place once the driverless car hits the streets, bringing with it profound political and economic implications for society.

It is certainly no secret that at this moment there are a host of companies in a race to the top of the driverless car market. Technology companies such as Google and Baidu, as well as automotive companies such as Tesla Motors and Daimler AG, are expanding their efforts in an attempt to capitalize on the growing opportunity the driverless car market offers. 

More recently, these companies are attracting some of the world’s best talent including engineers and modern cartographers to design, develop, and test actual driverless prototypes, suggesting that we are moving closer and closer to the driverless car becoming a reality.  Volvo has announced plans to test 100 driverless cars in Beijing in the near future. Google has already logged thousands of miles in testing its driverless cars in multiple climates. And Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has gone on record stating that his company will deliver a driverless car to the streets of NYC within the next two years.

Road to implementation

To be fair, there is quite a difference between having the requisite technology to produce a safe and effective driverless car and integrating those vehicles – even partially — into society. Most estimates put the date at somewhere out beyond the year 2030 for a full or primary choice level of driverless car integration.

While a number of technical questions, including how a driverless car deals with roads that are poorly signed or marked, remain, the number of successful tests in recent months and years now indicates that there is now a solid technological foundation for the driverless car. More than likely, Elon Musk’s predictions about producing a driverless car in the next two years is far closer to a reality than most people might imagine.

In the United States, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced he will unveil regulatory guidance for driverless cars in the coming months, a proactive approach to public policy and one focused on ensuring public benefits are maximized. Globally, government leaders should look to this example as a way to address the historic problem of governing entities inability to keep up with the pace of technological innovation.

Governing bodies

As companies continue to compete within the driverless car market, regulatory agencies should continue to put forth proactive policy recommendations in an effort to best position society to benefit from this technology.

While it is anyone’s guess as to when we will see full adoption of driverless cars on the road, the certainty in their arrival demands that governing bodies carefully think through and design how to best integrate this new technology into existing political frameworks. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized; with the first driverless cars just years away from hitting our roads, there will be no second chance to get this right.

About Author

Eric Simmons

Eric Simmons is a strategist at a leading multinational financial services corporation in New York. He received his BA in Economics & Government from Colby College, prior to his current role he has worked in Economic Consulting in Washington D.C., and at the United States Senate. All views expressed are solely those of Eric and do not represent the views or opinions of his employer.