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Filling the Gaps Between Dreams and Reality

Robert Regis Hyle | June 30, 2014

I guess the biggest difference in who I am as a journalist and what I cover as a journalist is the skepticism that some of the things I hear—or even write about—will actually be a part of the way we live in the not so distant future.

Technologists should be dreamers, otherwise I would still be using a manual typewriter and you would read my words only on paper a few weeks from now. I want to be a bit of a dreamer myself, but frankly it’s hard to imagine some of the stuff that has been written and discussed the last few years can actually come to fruition, particularly the driverless car.

Google has been getting most of the attention in this space and some day they will bring a product to market that will amaze us all, but frankly the whole concept of a nation, particularly this one, using self-driven cars that are guided by GPS technology is hard to get my mind around.

For one thing, the enormous expense has to be considered. This may be the richest nation in the world, but there are a whole lot of people still driving around in 2003 Toyota Camrys and it’s not because it’s such a dependable vehicle—it’s because they can’t afford all the things they would like in life so they choose to drive around in an old, cheap car.

How long is it going to take before the bugs are worked out to make these driverless cars able to withstand the challenges of the American highway system? And then, how long before they can make it affordable for middle-class drivers, much less the people driving around in 1993 Toyota Camrys?

There is a company in San Francisco, Cruise Automation, which believes it can make the technology more affordable. Cruise has developed a $10,000 accessory that is strapped to the roof of your car and plugged into the foot well. There is one catch, Cruise founder Kyle Vogt reports the system only works with certain models of Audi vehicles, although Vogt is working to make it more compatible with other vehicles.

 “We have six-to-nine months of testing and qualifications before we can start selling,” Vogt tells Forbes. “Not because there’s a law but because we’re being realistic. This is a safety control system so we have to be absolutely sure it’s safe before we sell it to someone.”

Ah, the safety issue. At least that’s one we can all understand, although six to nine months seems like an aggressive schedule, even for a dreamer.

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