AUVSI: Future Cars Will Be Like Airplanes


While autonomous vehicles of all kinds, but especially cars, seem to be just around the corner, they won’t see wide acceptance unless they’re perceived to be at least as safe as airplanes. That’s the thinking in the budding autonomy industry, according to Chip Downing of Wind River, an Intel subsidiary that specializes in embedded software for automated and other industrial systems.

Speaking at the AUVSI Xponential conference in Dallas this week, Downing said it won’t be technical barriers that discourage acceptance of autonomous vehicles, but lack of will to make buyers believe they’re both safe and secure. Downing said the aviation industry summoned this will years ago and now has a safety record to prove it, at least in the airline industry. He said autonomous vehicle manufacturers will have to do the same by accepting stringent, commonly accepted standards for certifying vehicles, just as the world aerospace industry has done with air transport aircraft.

Downing uses what he calls Mad Cow syndrome to explain the problem. So-called Mad Cow disease sickened hundreds of people because a few packing houses couldn’t resist including 50 cents worth of contaminated brain material in meat products. “That cost the industry $11 billion to clean up,” Downing says. Beef sales took years to recover and may not have recovered yet. If autonomous vehicle manufacturers follow the same kind of short-sightedness in designing and building autonomous vehicles of all kinds—including aircraft—they’ll suffer similar rejection in the market. Downing adds that it will take an overarching belief and safety and security for autonomy to find market acceptance.