Automakers, suppliers and governments must work together to develop truly autonomous vehicles.
Not in small collaborations or technical partnerships.
Together. All of them.
Admittedly, such full-on cooperation cuts against the grain of the industry. But it is critically important in this case. Much of the early development of autonomous-driving technologies -- sensor-based automatic braking and cross-path detection -- has been by individual companies or suppliers and put into the market to gain competitive advantage.
When fully implemented, those technologies save lives. But the difficulty is in the development of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
This work can't be done alone.
It will mean building a near-sentient network of independent rolling entities that are just as capable of recognizing the dangers of a flash flood as they are finding fast-food restaurants.
And the vast amounts of data this network of interconnected vehicles generates must, by definition, be shared.
If the expertise to develop such a network exists within any single automaker it is not yet evident. But we believe that collectively, the engineering and computing horsepower is available to overcome such challenges, and the industry would benefit from spreading around the development costs.
This effort also will require governments to improve the nation's infrastructure. An industry can't blow billions on a system to increase auto safety only to have the effort fail because of bad roads.
Right now, the auto industry is no more than 500 yards into the marathon that will end with development and deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. As is the case in most such races, competitors are jostling for advantage as they race out across the starting line.
But this much is certain: Not all of the automakers that have started this race will finish it on their own. The way for everyone to get to the finish line as quickly and efficiently as possible is to run as a team.