The Fleet of Autonomous Cars is Growing

If you’re motoring around California these days, especially near Mountain View, where Google keeps its fleet of autonomous autos on the road as much as possible, you shouldn’t be surprised if you spot a car without anyone in the driver’s seat.

In mid-June, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released a list of autos that are driverless and registered with the state. Google now has 48 such vehicles that have driven 1.1 million miles autonomously. Tesla has 12 driverless cars registered with the state, Volkswagen has three, Mercedes Benz has five, Nissan has three, Bosch has two and Delphi has two.

googleCar

When you see this Lexus SUV cruising around Mountain View, California, you’ll know not to bother looking for a driver behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England has issued a report that the $30 billion-plus automobile insurance business could be wiped out or at least radically changed by driverless autos, which apparently have never had an accident in which the car was at fault. As cars learn to communicate with each other and their computers are programmed to err on the side of safety, automobile accidents could be eliminated.

Google reported in May that its cars had been in only 11 accidents in more than 1.1 million miles of testing and that most involved speeds less than 25 mph, and none was the fault of the Google cars.

Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn recently said his company will be ready to sell self-driving cars by 2020, and other manufacturers plan to introduce elements of driverless cars long before then.

Uber probably can’t wait. Although it has paired up with Carnegie Mellon engineers who have an excellent track record with robotics to develop a driverless car, the company ran into a legal maelstrom recently when the California Labor Commission ruled that an Uber driver is an employee, not a contract worker, and entitled to business expenses like gasoline and car payments. Uber has appealed the ruling, but its CEO has been candid that he is fascinated with the idea of doing away with just another cost center — the driver — as soon as possible.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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