Many reckon we're just a few years from the first truly autonomous car. BMW's Ian Robertson thinks otherwise

BMW head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson thinks ‘true’ autonomous driving is still a long way off, despite promises from some manufacturers that it’s just around the corner.

“It depends what you mean when you say ‘autonomous driving’,” he said. “Some people class things like automatic cruise control as autonomous driving, but it isn’t. It’s a step along the way.

“We determine it in layman’s terms as feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off. Feet off is done — we have automatic cruise control — and I can take my hands off the wheel for up to 15 seconds with steering assist. But that steering assistant then needs me to put my hands back on the wheel, the primary reason being to make sure I’m still responsible.

“That 15 seconds will become one minute, five minutes and so on, but there’s an extended period before in all circumstances that becomes hands off and feet off for a meaningful time. Eyes off and brain off is still many, many years away.

“While the technology will advance, I think the legislation, the responsibility and the societal questions relating to a machine making decisions to do with life and death means we’re not quite ready for that.”

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3 May 2016
that people who think they can rely on the 'auto-pilot' are not inclined to respond in the millisecond that may be required to avoid an accident. They may be too busy with their smart phone, or worse: doze off.


3 May 2016
....Totally agree with Ian here, we are a long way off from fully Autonomous driving technology.
Particularly with the 'Road Train' idea of cars driving on motorways virtually bumper to bumper to save fuel...the reaction time you would need to regain control.....especially if you were doing something else at the time, would require reaction times even a F1 driver couldn't contemplate!!
Lets face it the only transportation we have (with the possible exception of DLR where there is no other traffic to contend with), which involves " feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off" still involves a driver/pilot/captain !!

3 May 2016
Something to keep in mind is that there are many players working on this and some will inevitably be ahead and some will be behind. Some have leadership that have fully embraced self driving tech and others have leaders that have not. There is a Car and Driver review of existing self driving tech on Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, and Infiniti. The Tesla was way ahead of the others. The established automakers are slower to change. Tesla and Google are the leaders in this technology and the others are followers. I would advise listening to the predictions of the leaders, not the followers. Elon said his cars will be able to drive autonomously cross country in 2018. He is almost definitely optimistic with this timing but it'll probably by 2020 because so many of the players are giving 2020 as the first availability of fully autonomous vehicles. Google's research is turning into a product soon. Probably we'll be seeing them driving passengers in the next year or two in limited areas.

3 May 2016
If he means 15 years, I'd probably agree. But if he means 30 years, I'd disagree. Clearly the likes of Google and Tesla would disagree with him if he means even 15 years. I think we'll go in steps as he suggests, but the potential for beneficial change when cars can be fully autonomous is just huge. So it has to be done as soon as possible. It's interesting that makers of cars like BMWs are less keen to hit autonomy than technology companies like Google. They want to protect their image as makers of diver's cars. Autonomous cars will not be driver's cars, they'll be passenger's cars. A good thing in my view, though I do think that drivers will always be able to drive cars themselves at least on certain roads and within certain parameters while still protecting the safety of other road users as well as autonomous cars will. So BMW and others will not become totally irrelevant.

3 May 2016
No I think when we are autonomous then the right to drive will be eroded starting with motorways then suburbs and city centres and finally the countryside. The car ownership model will also disappear. If you are looking at the 30 year timeframe where will people be driving to? Will there still be a need for humans to work? I don't think so they already recon 1 billion jobs could be replaced now. They aren't because they don't know what else to do with us.

3 May 2016
We already have " feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off." its called a train and/or a taxi. both have declined over the years.

4 May 2016
The Apprentice wrote:

We already have " feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off." its called a train and/or a taxi. both have declined over the years.

Trains have not declined. Just the opposite. Huge demand for trains.

I don't think that autonomous cars will in any real way change people's desire to own their own car, for pretty obvious reasons. People want to go where they want to go, when they want to go there. They want their own car, full of their own junk, in the colour of their choice, at their beck and call, no matter what. If anything, autonomous cars may increase this desire to have one's own car. Taxi drivers will lose out. Buses may well lose out too. But trains can move so many people at once that they're in a different category, especially for long distances.

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