Self-driving cars could make Sydney’s WestConnex redundant

High-end car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz has its own vision for the future of self-driving cars, suggesting that they will provide their owners with the two most important luxuries of the 21st century: time and privacy.

"Cars will turn into mobile homes in the very best sense of the word," said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, head of the Damier AG's Mercedes-Benz division at a keynote given at CES this year. "They will be exclusive 'cocoons on wheels' that enable people to do exactly what they want or need to do. This is the re-definition of automotive luxury."

But while Dr. Zetsche is confident that Mercedes will be able to make self-driving cars commercially viable, he says there are still challenges to be faced when it comes to making automatic vehicles ubiquitous.

"Whom are we going to hold responsible in the unlikely event that an autonomous driving car crashes? Or how should the car decide on ethic aspects, if an accident is really unavoidable?" asked Dr. Zetsche.

Nonetheless, Dr. Zetsche said he was optimistic about the future of self-driving cars, stating that the relevant technologies are rapidly advancing, and more importantly, customers are beginning to trust them.

"The time is right to think about the car of the future."

Even if the self-driving car of the future is still a while away, Dr. Hervey says it's important not to get hung up on exact timelines, citing Amara's Law.

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."

"I don't think it matters whether this technology is here in 10 years, 13 years or 17 years. [Driveless cars] are going to drastically alter the face of society. I think that the more people know about this, the more they're ready for it, the more they can take advantage of it, and the more they can avoid things like paying billions of dollars for roads that go to nowhere."

Dr. Angus Hervey will be participating in a discussion entitled "Reconnecting Sydney" as part of the Vivid Festival on June 4. He will also be chatting with Charlie Brown on Sunday's episode of Life & Technology on 2GB and NewsTalk 4BC.

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