For centuries we’ve been comfortable with some of the most error-prone navigation and safety systems piloting our vehicles: humans. The emerging technologies associated with driverless vehicles provide an opportunity to virtually eradicate human error from our roads. But as the world moves towards a driverless future, there is still much apprehension and uncertainty about the impact of autonomous vehicle technology.
We have seen that driverless technology is not perfect, with the first reported fatality attributed to the (incorrect) use of autonomous vehicle technology. But the basic technology has been developed, and now a new, subtler set of challenges will take center stage.
As the quest for driverless vehicles rolls forward, stakeholders across multiple industries – from automotive manufacturing to insurance – need to address a number questions:
- How can we be made to feel secure when using driverless technology – both physically and financially?
- How do carmakers strike the balance between real-life situations requiring the car to be in control and those instances where the driver wants control?
- How will the cars adapt to individuals’ driving styles?
In short, what – beyond the technology itself – will it take for driverless cars to become a reality?
The answers to that question are now becoming clearer – with four key steps towards building public confidence in autonomous vehicle technology:
1. Learning from aviation
All parties that stand to benefit from making driverless vehicles a commercial success can learn a great deal from the aviation industry.
Planes are safe and the fear of mechanical failure is low. The fatality rate for planes is much, much lower than that of trains and cars: 0.003 for every billion kilometers traveled for planes compared to 0.27 fatalities per billion kilometers traveled by rail, and 2.57 fatalities per billion kilometers traveled by car.
The key point is that consumers trust air travel. Passengers don’t draw a distinction between when the plane is in autopilot mode and when the pilot is a human. Auto companies, dealers and marketers would do well to learn lessons from how flight has been marketed to make flyers feel so safe.