When it comes to fully autonomous vehicles becoming commercially available, industry consensus is that it’s not a question of if but when. And that time frame appears to be within the next two to three years.
For example, industry research firm Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com) expects that highly automated light-duty vehicles will begin to be introduced in 2020, with steady growth anticipated starting in 2025.
Then there’s Waymo (https://waymo.com) – formerly the Google self-driving car project – pushing the pace, saying that it will roll out fully self-driving taxi rides to the public by the end of this year, with a plan to operate 1 million self-driving miles by 2020.
And at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March, Ed Peper, vice president of fleet at GM (www.gm.com), said that the automaker expects to launch fully self-driving vehicles "safely and at scale” in ridesharing applications in 2019.
But fatal crashes in recent weeks – involving an Uber vehicle in fully autonomous mode and a Tesla Model X with Autopilot engaged – also have caused many in the industry and government to pump the brakes on vehicle testing, creating some uncertainty around when robots will actually rule the roads.