Self-Driving Cars Hit a Speed Bump

By Kelsey Mays  on April 16, 2013

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As recently as February, purveyors of self-driving cars, which would whisk you to the store while you did squat, predicted the cars would be here this decade. Google has had a fleet of them since 2010; Audi, GM, Toyota and others have developed their own too.

But self-driving cars won't come anytime soon. Like the arrival of Chinese automakers, the Spyker Peking-to-Paris SUV and Lotus' whole new lineup, the coming-out date remains elusive. Experts at the 2013 Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 World Congress said Tuesday that the mass market won't get them until 2025, the Detroit News reports.

The SAE, whose standards influence everything from cargo specs to horsepower, invited panelists from automakers, suppliers, universities and more to its annual conference in Detroit. So-called "semiautonomous" technology, which fuses collision-detection and steering technologies to keep you in your lane and far enough from the car ahead, will hit the market much sooner, experts said.

The potential for driver distraction spawned debate, the Detroit News reports. After all, a self-driving car would seem to only encourage more texting — or sleeping, reading, you name it — and if you had to remain as alert behind the wheel as if you were driving, the benefits would diminish. Such systems offer high safety potential, given most accidents result from human error, but should any malfunction cause an accident, one expert said it would turn the discussion on its head. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in October it would launch a $1.75 million multiyear research project to determine the human controls necessary in driverless cars.

Before any car enthusiasts declare this the worst automotive development since the automatic transmission, note that one survey suggests a lot of average Joes want it.

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey