Road Ahead

Semi-Autonomous Cars Surest Bet in Five Years


If you wager on where the automotive market is going, look at what will be required by future government regulations, what will be affordable and what will not resemble an economic stimulus for trial lawyers.

Will self-driving cars become a reality or not? The debate grows stronger by the day. Technology companies such as Google say fully autonomous cars could be commercially available as early as 2018. More cautious forecasters peg the timeframe at 2025.

Skeptics still insist the idea is a pipedream: Product liability and other issues could prevent large-scale adoption of driverless vehicles from ever taking over public roads.

If there is a sure bet in all this speculation, it is so-called semi-autonomous vehicles being offered for sale in five years.  

Semi-autonomous systems allow cars and trucks to perform 90% of driving duties without human intervention, but still require a driver to deal with the most perilous and unpredictable situations, such as other drivers behaving dangerously.

That means drivers will be free to do many things behind the wheel they can’t do now, but they still will assume responsibility for controlling the car.

Safety systems supplier TRW and its technology partner Mobileye make a compelling case for this more measured – and believable – approach to self-driving vehicles at the supplier’s new global electronics technical center in Farmington Hills, MI.

With $16.4 billion in sales last year, 90% related to vehicle safety systems, TRW speaks with authority in judging what realistically can be achieved in enabling mass-produced vehicles to navigate public roads safely.

TRW designs and manufactures all the radar, camera, electric power steering and electronic stability control components required for semi-autonomous driving. Mobileye develops the software that makes them work: computer-vision algorithms and chip technology for driving- assistance systems.

TRW says the hardware will be ready by 2018, and Mobileye says so will the software. More importantly, they both say the technology will be affordable to auto makers and consumers.

Mobileye Chief Technology Officer Amnon Shashua says key visual technologies for recognizing animals, potholes, new street signs and traffic lights will be ready for launch in just a year or two, followed by emergency steering and self-driving components.

Shashua is confident these technologies will enable vehicles to steer and brake appropriately even in spontaneous situations, such as children stepping into the road from between parked cars or a deer leaping in front of a vehicle.

However, he says sensing technology still has limits. Cameras can have trouble recognizing a speeding vehicle approaching at an oblique angle in an erratic or reckless manner, he says.

Like it or not, drivers will be giving up more and more control to automatic vehicle safety systems. Some cars already incorporate adaptive cruise-control features and automatic emergency braking. More are coming.

Governments all over the world are enacting stricter rules to reduce traffic deaths and injuries. So far, Japan and Europe have done a much better job of reducing fatalities than the U.S.

According to data compiled by TRW, from 2001 to 2010, Japan reduced traffic fatalities 44% and Europe achieved a reduction of 43% while U.S. fatalities declined only 22% during the same period.

Now, after years of steadily declining, U.S. traffic fatality rates are climbing again. Driver distraction issues are getting much of the blame. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. study, 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes are caused by driver distraction.

Active safety systems already are proven to save lives and mitigate driver distraction. The U.S. government is expected to begin mandating their installation beginning around 2018.

Self-driving vehicles sound attractive to many, but if you have to make a serious bet on where the automotive market is going in high-volume, it is best to look at what will be required by future government regulations, what will be affordable and what will not resemble an economic stimulus package for trial lawyers.

All these signs point to proliferation of semi-autonomous, not self-driving vehicles in the next five to 10 years.






Discuss this Blog Entry 14

on Aug 26, 2013

Autonomous cars is good for the older person who want to go the offices and hospitals. This will help them free from stress. You can really rely on the autonomous car if ever this will be invented however this has to have a minimum speed of 40 because there will be error in the long run and it will not be a good idea. If this really come out they should not remove the manual driving while putting driverless system on the car for autonomous travel. A very nice post!!!!

on Aug 26, 2013

Making life easier for senior citizens is a major driver of the autonomous car movement. Numerous studies show that older drivers are most willing to pay a preimium for autonomous features and they also usually have the most money to spend.

on Aug 26, 2013

You might get blowback from making the analogy that senior citizens should rather take autonomous cars vs driving themselves....

on Aug 27, 2013

Could have worded that comment better. I welcome suggestions. Elderly drivers who no longer wish to drive but still want personal mobility?

on Dec 17, 2013

If the semi-autonomous cars will start being built, how many people will actually afford them? The way I see things, right now new cars are way too expensive. It's really ridiculous how much you pay on them when you could spend a lot less on a very efficient previous generation auto.

on Jan 28, 2014

Wow this is really exciting. TRW has created some awesome technologies in automobile industry. I hope the Semi-Autonomous cars will launch soon in our country. I would like to thank you for your nicely written post. Keep up the good work.

on Mar 14, 2014

It will be very great if the self-driving cars come soon in the market. There will be s much benefit to the society. Since the driving would be operated by the machine there would be least chance of any accidents and hence lead to number of less deaths. As we all know that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous offense and the reason behind distracted driving is talking over phones. So the risk of this will be reduced.

on May 28, 2014

Self-driving cars will be the greatest invention ever. There will be lots of benefits of self-driving cars. The most important thing will be there will be least risks of accidents. Self-driving car will contain sensors that will sense the speed of the traffic, it can also get the vehicle near by and hence it controls it speed. However a driver is always needed in car to control the harsh situation which can't be controlled by machine.

on Jul 18, 2014

Autonomous cars are the self driving cars which is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. It depends upon the techniques like radar, lidar , GPS. And semi autonomous cars are not fully operated by itself , it is 90% self operated and 10% user dependent. It is very much useful for those who do not know how to drive. These technologies are giving the automobile sector a new turning point and it is a huge drastic change for the automobile sector.

on Jan 1, 2015

According to the immense growth of science and technologies the day is not so far when there will be self-driving cars available online cars in houston for sale.

on Jun 9, 2015

informative post . thanks for sharing this post. i enjoy this post very.

on Jun 11, 2015

I am witnessing it 2 years later.

on Oct 6, 2015

Navigating public roads security is not going to be that easy... And the mass production of it will definitely face scrutiny.

on Jan 30, 2016

Greetings! I’ve been following

your site for a long

time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx!

Just wanted to say keep up the excellent job!

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What's Road Ahead?

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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