Technology for autonomous vehicles builds on car navigation systems that have been commonplace for years and new collision-avoidance systems that are beginning to appear in production vehicles. User-operated, fully autonomous cars—which can deal with the full spectrum of road and traffic scenarios without driver assistance—will probably come to market within the next five years. Mass market adoption of driverless cars, on the other hand, will take much longer, due to social, legal, and insurance issues.
None of the systems on the road today are truly driverless, says John Eggert, Director of Sales & Marketing for Automotive Business at lidar manufacturer Velodyne. “Even in the Tesla system, the driver has to pay attention at all times and has to take control of the vehicle with very little warning,” he points out. In a fully autonomous vehicle, by contrast, drivers could read a book or sleep and have plenty of time to take back control of the vehicle. “To accomplish that is a much more difficult task than anything that is on the road today. Our sensor is relevant any time the driver does not have to pay attention to the road.”