Editor's note: This article has been changed to correct the ownership of the Smart brand.
But if you take a peek at the cars shown at the Frankfurt auto show this week, you'll see that automakers and suppliers are investing a lot of money into the technology. And since these big companies rarely gamble with r&d funds, it's clear they're betting that no matter how far away the self-driving future is, it'll be here eventually.
With no steering wheel and a spacious interior, the Audi Aicon concept car shows what a larger fully self-driving car could look like from the German automaker. In the current Audi A8L, the best seats are in the back, so owners who like to be chauffeured can enjoy the ride. But in the Aicon, the best seats are up front. The chauffeur will be the car itself, and the owners will get to take in a view of the road while they relax for long-haul rides.
The Smart Vision EQ is a concept by the Daimler-owned brand that is fully electric and autonomous and could be used in car-sharing fleets. And the Renault Symbioz concept — also electric and self-driving — is what the company says driverless cars could look like in 2030.
It's not entirely clear what skeptics who debate the timing of the advent of self-driving cars are trying to prove. Are they hoping, in 10 years, to pull up a link on their holographic smartphone thingamabob and say, "Aha! I told you so!" Are they trying to slow down development of the technology so we can continue investing in conventional cars? The ones that kill about 1.25 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization.
Self-driving cars are coming. We don't know exactly when, or if self-driving cars will ever be the only kind of car you can buy. But they are coming, so get ready.
And they will be a lot more fun than curmudgeonly skeptics think.
— Sharon Silke Carty