Many experts claim the age of the autonomous vehicle is on the horizon. When it does arrive, it will reshape society in unexpected ways, including the realms of car insurance and legal liability for accidents. 

Before this happens, though, engineers and decision-makers need to find solutions to several complex issues. 

The regulatory question

Forbes stated that autonomous vehicle regulation remained a contentious frontier as of early 2019.  Much of this discussion centered around the risk of self-driving vehicles. Like many new technologies, regulation of autonomous vehicles is at present a mix of fragmented directives and voluntary guidelines. This will need to change before public roadways fill up with driver-less cars.  Consumers and manufacturers will look to Congress to provide a meaningful framework that addresses risk, safety and liability issues. 

Congress may also need to funnel more funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to cope with the issue. The industry in part depends upon smart federal oversight and standards that address a number of complex concerns. 

The engineering challenge

Many observers believe that in spite of a couple of high-profile accidents, the autonomous vehicle revolution will continue apace and that technological hurdles will soon disappear. Nonetheless, Car and Driver reports that building an autonomous car than can drive as well as humans is really difficult, and expensive. If the goal is Level 4 autonomy—defined as a car that safely performs all driving tasks but in a limited area—years of research and development still lie ahead for the industry. 

One company, Mobileye hopes to bring together camera technology and lidar and radar to create a technology that operates with built-in redundancy. In other words, if one system of detection fails, the other system will kick in, making the vehicle safe on the road.