Last week I shared some photos from inside Google’s prototype of a self-driving car. The reactions were about as polarized as I’ve ever seen on a blog post I’ve written. The first group of readers were amazed, and they wanted to know where they could buy one. Everyone else was terrified of the interior. A car that they could never steer? No thanks.
The problem with including a steering wheel in a self-driving car is that human drivers can’t be trusted to effectively take over in sticky situations. So the makers of driverless cars can’t responsibly include a steering wheel.
Research that Stanford has done shows that drivers resuming control from Level 3 vehicles functioning in autonomous mode take 10 seconds just to attain the level of ability that a drunk driver possesses. And to get back to full driving competence takes 60 seconds.
That’s a full 10 seconds just to function at the level of someone who shouldn’t be behind the wheel. A self-driving car cruising at 70 mph is unlikely to have 60 or even 10 seconds to wait for a human to take over.