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Self-Driving Cars Still Miles Away

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Yesterday, Audi AG Chairman Rupert Stadler told a crowd at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich that the cars of the future will drive and park themselves. In a write up of the event, the Wall Street Journal stated that Stadler believes that connectivity between cars will soon allow them to talk to each other on the road.

The car company has already made vast strides in connectivity, including 4G capabilities that allow passengers (and drivers) to download and watch HD video. Stadler went on to tell the crowd that, in his opinion, car makers should challenge themselves to match the faster development cycles of companies like Apple (AAPL).

Meanwhile, one company has already had a good amount of success with self-driving cars: Google (GOOG). Unfortunately, events at a recent symposium at Santa Clara University showed that keeping up with Apple may be the least of self-driving cars problems.

According to the New York Times, the panel raised issues like how to insure self-driving cars, whether or not the police can pull them over and how to determine legal liability in case of an accident. Further, the cars may be vulnerable to technological issues like jammed GPS satellites.

These problems aside, Google’s vehicles have already managed 200,000 miles of autonomous driving without an accident and self-driving cars are legal in Nevada, with more states to follow. Some Google insiders have suggested that the company wants to put driverless cars on the road as soon 2013 or 2014.

Of course, before they can do that, they’ll have to resolve many of the difficulties mentioned above, those, as well as few technological problems. For example, Google’s program has trouble recognizing when a police officer or safety worker is waving cars off of a road. There are also concerns that the car is too polite, and may wait at a four way stop sign forever -- pretty much literally -- if other cars don’t stop or perform the patented California rolling stop.

Still, it’s exciting to see the new directions companies like Google are taking with old technology. But, as a recent article points out, today’s smart technology may not be quite as smart as its creators' ambitions.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.