Driverless cars are being tested by companies included Google
Auto makers are committed to producing automated cars
Some remain skeptical of the technology
Editor’s Note: CNN contributor Andrew Keen organized and hosted an invitation-only Silicon Valley event called FutureCast. A group of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and writers discussed the impact of the digital revolution on transportation. All this week CNN Business Traveller will bring you highlights from the debate. AT&T and Ericsson hosted the conference at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.
Does the future of transportation really mean the end of driving?
At the inaugural FutureCast event many of Silicon Valley’s most innovative entrepreneurs and thinkers believed it could be.
Yes, they said, these intelligent cars are for real and the future has arrived in the shape of collision-proof, driverless automobiles.
“Seven U.S. states have legalized driverless vehicles now,” said David Frigstad, Chairman of consultancy Frost & Sullivan. “The technology works today. We aren’t talking about a flying car. We are talking about a car that works today.”
The self-driving car will making the whole driving experience much more pleasurable, predicted Brad Templeton, the former chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has worked extensively with Google on their self-driving car.
“The inside of the car is going to change a lot,” he explained. “Right now, cars are sold by acceleration. Then they are going to be sold by comfort. They’ll be face to face so they’ll be a pleasant experience. You child will say: ‘Mommy are we there already?’ rather than ‘Are we there yet?’”
Even grizzled Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik confessed to being wowed by the self-driving car.
“Listen, I was driving to work the other day and I saw the self-driving Google car buzz by me driving much better than I think I was,” Fertik said. “I don’t know if the guy had his hands on the wheel. There’s this big whirly thing on the top. It’s like Star Trek.”
Four companies – Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo – will have automated cars in the market in the next 12 months noted The New York Times’ technology writer John Markoff.
“We are about to enter into this great social experiment,” he said.
However not all FutureCast attendees agreed that this social experiment is that great.
“You may sell these cars from Audi, but I have an Audi parked out front,” noted former Best Buy CTO Robert Stephens. “Its Bluetooth doesn’t sync properly with my audio. There’s no frigging way I’m letting this thing drive me down the highway yet.”
But even Stephens is excited by the idea of the self-driving car. “The minute you realize you can be in this thing and surf your email and not touch the car that will be awesome,” he said about a technology which, for better or worse, is about to radically change all of our lives.