It’s that time of year again. Downtown Detroit is buzzing with auto industry, executives, employees, and reporters for the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
Press week has long been filled with glitzy unveilings of new car models and press conferences with auto company bigwigs. But over the last few years, something else has been catching people’s eyes at the auto show.
Displays showing off self-driving cars and the technology that makes them work have been growing — exponentially it seems — every year. General Manager last week announced it plans to launch its first driverless fleet in 2019.
Are we that close to a new reality on our roadways, where most people will be buying and manning self-driving cars? How far away are we from being able to get into a vehicle with a book or newspaper and read while our cars drive us into work?
“In a lot of ways, (the auto show is really) beginning to focus on the technology,” says Carrie Morton, deputy director of Mcity, an autonomous vehicle test facility in Ann Arbor. Morton tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson she doesn’t believe people will start owning self-driving cars in 2019.
“I think we’re having a paradigm shift now about how people engage with the passenger car industry,” she says. “You’ll see these vehicles first deployed in shared mobility fleets. You’re going to hail it much like you hail an Uber or a Lyft. And that way, the deployment and the roll out of these technologies is much more controlled.”
Henderson also speaks with Craig Hoff, dean of the college of engineering at Kettering University, which is home to an industry-standard autonomous vehicle proving ground in Flint. He says the technology is at a point where it might be necessary to see how these vehicle do on the road in real-life situations.
“I think the only way to figure out how to get the system to work is to work the system,” says Hoff.
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.