When the time comes that autonomous cars have been tested and proven with millions of miles of trouble-free operation, there will be a huge potential market for commercialization.
But until that time, we should make sure that companies don't use our highways as their own private proving grounds. If the American public found out that aircraft manufacturers were using the skies to test a new autopilot, there would be outrage, and all tests would be halted immediately.
The same procedures should be used for auto testing as for aviation. Otherwise, auto tests could be killing and injuring drivers and passengers for as long as it might take to make certain that autonomous systems are safe and reliable.
There are lots of test tracks and other facilities available to ensure safe 24-hour testing for potential manufacturers.
To allow real-world testing of driverless cars on the streets and highways of America is reckless and irresponsible. It is inconceivable that after more than a hundred years of automotive development, there are executives who would condone any testing of such vehicles on public roads. It is wrong and should stop immediately.
One of the most important aspects of testing should be crash avoidance. Obviously, no one would suggest that phase of testing should be done anywhere but in a test environment where all aspects of the vehicles could be monitored.
The value of a safe driverless car is huge. There are plenty of potential customers for such a vehicle, but it would seem that in their rush to the marketplace, companies are ignoring the basics of vehicle testing and reliability.
It could take years to prove the systems are reliable and safe. For some reason, manufacturers have been blinded by the potential of autonomous vehicles and either because of greed or their competitive nature have ignored basic engineering safety.
No one denies the potential of driverless vehicles. But to rush into production without adequate testing is irresponsible. To allow untested systems on our nation's highways prematurely would, in all likelihood, kill the promise of such systems.
We want and need a safe driverless vehicle. But before that vehicle can come to market, it will need strenuous testing.
It took at least a decade to get airbags into production cars, and they are saving thousands of lives.
Let's not replace safety with greed.
Keith Crain is chairman of Crain Communications, which publishes Rubber & Plastics News.