Ten million driverless cars are expected to hit the road by 2020, according to a recent Business Insider report. Google and Apple are racing to join the automotive industry. Traditional car manufacturers are investing billions of dollars in R&D. There are many reasons to believe that the car of the future will be autonomous. If so, we should expect people to identify less and less with their vehicles.
In 2014, Google fired a shot heard all the way to Detroit. Google's newest driverless car prototype had no steering wheel and no brakes. The message was clear: Cars of the future will be born fully autonomous, with no human driver needed or desired. Even more jarring, rather than retrofit a Prius or a Lexus as Google did to build its previous two generations of driverless cars, the company custom-built the body of its youngest driverless car with a team of subcontracted automotive suppliers. Best of all, the car emerged from the womb already an expert driver, with roughly 700,000 miles of experience culled from the brains of previous prototypes. Now that Google's self-driving cars have had another few more years of practice, the fleet's collective drive-time equals more than 1.3 million miles, the equivalent of a human logging 15,000 miles a year behind the wheel for 90 years. In response, car companies are pouring billions of dollars into software development and the epicenter of automotive innovation has moved from Detroit to Silicon Valley.