Is the automotive industry truly ready for self-driving cars?

At the end of December in a comprehensive blog on their website, J.D. Power provided a listing of all the vehicle recalls that have been issued. It's a mind-boggling list affecting many makes, models and model years - including 2015 vehicles which have only been on the road less than six months!

Here's a small sample: Aston Martin, various models from 2006-2014. "The electronic control module for the driver and front passenger seat heaters may fail, preventing the seat heaters from being able to be turned off. The company warns that the seats could get hot enough that areas of the seat may overheat and smolder, increasing risk of injury to the seat occupant." Gee, that sounds fun only if you're living in Fairbanks, Alaska at this time of year. In fact, if this were a Three Stooges skit, it would really be funny!

GM has issued recalls for five 2015 models: the Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban and Tahoe, and the GM Sierra and Yukon XL. A sudden loss of power steering assist during vehicle operation may result in steering problems. You've got to be kidding me!

The 2015 Dodge Challenger is being recalled because the instrument cluster may become inoperative. And the 2015 Ford Mustang, made between Sept. 25, 2014 and Oct. 9, 2014, could have a fuel sensor that wasn't seated properly to the fuel jumper line, which may cause a fuel lead, increasing the risk of a vehicle fire in the presence of an ignition source.

I don't know about you but I'm thinking that an industry that is more than 100 years old and has been making things like ignition switches, brakes, power steering and fuel systems, and even air bags for many decades and still can't get it right isn't ready for prime time when it comes to driverless cars.

For that reason I suppose it's good that Dykema, a national business law firm serving a variety of industries including the automotive industry with five office in the state of Michigan, made the observation at the NAIAS in Detroit this week, that "self-driving cars are still years away." There plenty of experimental vehicles testing that technology, however notes Dykema, ". . . even as the idea of a Jetsons-like future dominated by robotic cars enthralls the media, that potential reality is at least a decade away." That's a good thing for all of us.

I'm of the opinion that if automakers aren't quite there yet with the basics like seat heaters that might set your pants on fire or power steering mechanisms that fail, they probably aren't capable of making a car that can get you automatically from point A to point B without driving you over a cliff or into oncoming traffic. Personally, I could probably do that myself without paying big bucks for the experience.

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