Robot cars may be on the roads within the next decade, said a recent IHS Automotive study.  The study claims that 54 million robot cars will be on the streets by 2035 and that nearly all autos will be driverless by 2050.

The auto industry is increasingly dedicated to bringing commercially viable self-driving models to the market.

There is lots of hype surrounding this technology, but it is still uncertain whether it will live up to the promises.

The IHS report attempts to clarify the situation slightly by ranking self-driving technology from 0 to 5.  Level 0 is no automation at all.  Level 1 is where most major automakers are now.

At Level 2, the computer controls two or more functions for autonomy in special situations.  Some models are already at this level, but laws requiring drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times renders these capability “non-operational.”

Level 3 is full automation in certain situations, where drivers cede full control to the computer and are not required to keep their eyes on the road at all times.  Automakers like Audi, BMW, Nissan, and Mercedes are promising models at these levels by 2020.

Levels 4 and 5 involve full automation, to the point where there will be no human control at all.  The only firm even talking about full automation is Google, and they will have to find a partner or license out their software if it becomes reality.

While up-and-coming technology is exciting, it also has drawbacks.  If cars are required to go online for positioning, maps, traffic data, and more, they are vulnerable to hacking.  Furthermore, lawmakers will need to determine rules for allowing this new technology on the road.

There is no exact date for the release of robot cars, but this report makes it clear that the required technology is either here already or due to arrive very soon.

About The Author

Aneri Pattani is a Blast correspondent and journalism student at Northeastern University

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