Written by Staff Writer
Editor’s Note — Nung-hsi Goh has spent the last year in California working as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on applied data sciences. She speaks a few words of Chinese and English.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — If you thought driverless cars were a pipe dream until recently, think again. Today, companies like Delphi Automotive and Sichuan Tsinghua Auto Electric are looking to roll out autonomous vehicles in the United States before the end of the year. Delphi alone is aiming to have cars in the market by 2019.
Automakers and tech companies are now under pressure to produce a slew of driverless cars — one day, controlling some of the world’s most hazardous roads without anyone in the driver’s seat.
More companies like Google, Mercedes-Benz and Uber are getting into the driverless car game, while others are designing their own autonomous solutions. Amazon said last year it would have driverless trucks on its route from Seattle to Los Angeles by this summer.
So why are American manufacturers rushing to push driverless cars? Fear of regulatory intervention.
In recent months, cities across the United States have banned driverless cars from city streets — a mere 4% of the US population lives in “densely populated areas” with a “huge diversity of built environment,” according to the Associated Press. Those places — such as Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — prohibit the testing of driverless cars due to public safety concerns.
Those cities that aren’t worried about getting killed by a driverless car realize that it might still be a few years before their drivers can complete daily tasks without the aid of a computer.
And even if drivers will be freed from behind the wheel in the next few years, it is still a huge hassle to operate the car without someone in the driver’s seat. For example, if a self-driving car leaves the driver’s side door open, the car would be completely incapacitated. Therefore, passengers would have to wait until the car is stopped before moving forward to pick up a passenger.
“I think it makes perfect sense for people to start to think of driverless vehicles,” Dan Donovan, senior vice president of supply chain and new ventures at Google said in an interview with the AP. “But I think, until you see more of them operating in the real world, a lot of people are still going to wonder about the lack of human interaction and socializing that comes with a truly autonomous vehicle.”