The Self-Driving Car May Be The Future, But Semi-Autonomous Is Good For Now

The buzz of the automotive industry has consistently been the autonomous vehicle. While it is exciting to think of living in a world akin to the Jetsons, that reality is still several years down the road. Even as automakers continue to increase funding for autonomous developments, the truth is that no one is ready for a fully self-driving car just yet. While semi-autonomous systems do not take cars to the level of total self-driving, they can reduce the stress of driving and cut down on accidents – making them worthwhile features for shoppers to consider.

The Self-Driving Car May Be The Future, But Semi-Autonomous Is Good For Now

OEMS might need some help

Autonomous systems require a tremendous amount of computing power to account for all of the inputs needed to safely keep a vehicle driving in countless conditions. Not to mention, driving alongside non-autonomous vehicles piloted by humans with inconsistent and sometimes erratic behaviors.

In addition to requiring full connectivity, which has become much more feasible over the last decade, a lot of hardware is required to pull off little-to-no human driver input. To help illustrate this, Autoblog published an article about how Arm, a chip technology company, joined General Motors and Toyota to form “common computing systems” for fully autonomous capable vehicles. The goal of creating an OEM and tech company joint effort is to accelerate development of the technologies needed to achieve self-driving vehicles. Right now, the most capable vehicles require “servers in the trunk,” as Chet Babla, Arm’s vice president of automotive, told Reuters in an interview when sharing his experience of being chauffeured around in four different types of prototype autonomous vehicles.1

Drivers are not on board yet

There have been enough incidents involving vehicles with high levels of semi-autonomous capabilities to shift people’s confidence in self-driving vehicles. In fact,  71 percent of people are afraid to ride in them, according to a study by AAAWhat’s interesting was the lack of comfort prior to the high-profile incidents –  still relatively high at 63 percent. So regardless of how fast the technology gets us there, we still have to contend with the human adoption rate. However, if we’ve all learned one thing over the years, as the technology gets more advanced (and in this case, incident free), adoption rate will change in the blink of an eye.

For example, can we imagine going a full day without the supercomputer of yesterday that we call a cellphone today? AAA’s assessment of their study has a good outlook on what will help people start to feel more comfortable about self-driving cars and riding in them, either by themselves or with loved ones: education. As people start to better understand what self-driving technologies can and can’t do, and the varying levels of automation, their perceptions will begin to change. AAA’s outlook makes sense, especially when considering conversations with someone about “auto pilot” who doesn’t own a Tesla or is outside of the automotive industry. Ask yourself, did they fully-understand how the system works?

Too much confusion

Knowing part of the discomfort with autonomous vehicles stems from confusion, we can’t expect car shoppers to understand all the different systems available today and their varying capabilities. Though auto manufacturers and third-party websites provide an abundance of content on how each of the OEM’s unique systems work, it can still be challenging for car shoppers to fully understand the differences. The majority of car shoppers are looking for vehicles that fit their budget and lifestyle and not starting their research based on what level of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) they want. This all gets compounded with all the different brand names, not to mention the different levels of autonomous driving capabilities.

To get a better understanding of this, AutoTrader published an article that talks about what semi-autonomous systems they deem as the Top 7.3 If you’re interested in learning more about the 5-levels of autonomous vehicles, TrueCar has an easy read describing the differences between each level.4

Consider semi-autonomous features

The availability of semi-autonomous systems has drastically grown across OEMs and vehicle segments. The various systems that work together to deliver a semi-autonomous driving experience have become increasingly more available on a large majority of vehicles. For example, the adaptive cruise control or the lane departure warning in your car. . . those are all building blocks of autonomous systems. As individual features, they are safety technology at its best. For this reason alone, car shoppers should consider these semi-autonomous features when searching for their next vehicles. As we all become more comfortable with letting our cars take a bit more control and start to trust them, so begins the path to being more open to fully self-driving vehicles.

Conclusion and key takeaway

Fully autonomous vehicles are still a little way off, but some of the new features rolling out are worthwhile. Though these “auto pilot” type systems may not be in certain vehicles people are shopping for or fall outside their budgets, a lot of the available standalone features do. OEMs have already done a brilliant job of introducing the latest and greatest new technologies and capabilities to consumers via their luxury brands and higher-end models. As the technology ages and becomes less expensive, the availability trickles down to more and more models within each of the OEM’s brands.

All individual ADAS features started to become available in luxury vehicles and are progressively becoming more available across all OEMs and all vehicles segments. This has been and will continue to be a bridge to fully self-driving vehicles and allow OEMs and top tech companies to learn how to transition what we know today as driving to riding.

About the Author

Charlie Schiavone is the Product Portfolio VP at Autodata Solutions. With a career focused on a combination of core vehicle data and product development specifically for the online automotive user experience, Charlie not only understands the strength of data-driven applications but also is able to implement them. Charlie has held a number of responsibilities at Edmunds, Total Car Score, Autobytel and AutoWeb. Email:



Heavy hitters in car technology join GM, Toyota to form autonomy consortium -

2 Three in four Americans remain afraid of fully self-driving vehicles -

3 7 Best Semi-Autonomous Systems Available Right Now -

The 5 Levels of Autonomous Vehicles -