The Consumer Electronics Show happening this week in Las Vegas is an annual event where companies unveil new technology that used to be just science fiction. This year's belle of the ball? Self-driving cars.
There's a reason for that. While safety is certainly a concern regarding the technology, new video from Twitter shows a self-driving Tesla sensing an accident through a vehicle ahead and applying the brakes to avoid it:
@elonmusk Finally the right one. https://t.co/2fspGMUoWf— Hans Noordsij (@Hans Noordsij) 1482861593.0
CEO of Tesla Elon Musk has long sung the praises of autonomous vehicle technology, saying radar detection in concert with visual sensors helps his cars "see" through cars in front of them to avoid accidents.
The Twitter user who posted the video noted that the car's autopilot "initially applied the emergency brake before the driver was able to react and brake herself."
In a piece from the CES Thursday, USA Today reported that the self-driving automobile field, which used to be dominated by Google, has become pretty crowded:
The Consumer Electronics Show has served as a leading indicator of the growing interest in self-driving tech, eventually welcoming to what traditionally was a gadget-fest more than a dozen automakers. Two years ago, Ford CEO Mark Fields even delivered the keynote, a spotlight previously reserved for the likes of Bill Gates. ...
It's clear now that engineers are able to make cars drive themselves. The bigger issue is how to scale this technology in a way that finds it both culturally embraced and scientifically sound — and is cost effective.
While scalability is an issue for automakers, consumers will likely be paying closer attention to safety. The technology has some advocacy in Washington that should help, including current Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who released an 11-page memo Thursday urging the incoming Trump administration to support development in the field:
In the 1960s we had to fight industry to require seatbelts in vehicles, and to take other safety measures. The result of these safety battles paid off: the motor vehicle fatality rate has dropped by 80 percent. Now, fifty years later we are working with the automobile and technology industries to shape policies to ensure safe deployment of autonomous and connected vehicles on our roads, which have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives annually.
If these safety successes like the Tesla one continue, aided by praises from regulatory agencies like the DOT, the market may be selling self-driving cars sooner than originally expected.