Autonomous Vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Google, Nissan by 2020

The first driverless vehicle, known as the “linrrican Wonder,” hit streets as early as 1925.

Nearly a century later, driverless vehicles have yet to gain traction among the masses. But technologies for driverless—even autonomous—vehicles are getting so close we can almost touch the ignition. This week at an event hosted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, industry leaders in the space predicted most people will be buying autonomous vehicles by 2020.

The reason this technology is not picking up as expected is the reservation by the masses. People enjoy driving the cars and all the manufacturers have been coming up with cars and technologies to satiate this need – the need to drive the superior car, the need to drive the most comfortable car, etc.

In such a situation, when people are told, they don’t need to drive and the car will drive itself, they are skeptical. Though many see it as a welcome change as they won’t have to drive in the increasing traffic and can actually get a lot of useful work done in such traffic, many are not too keen.

It is common knowledge that human errors occur and machines can reduce those errors, hence accidents are expected or at least promised to be lesser. Machines will abide by the rules of the road as they won’t know how to over ride such commands. Similar to how trading software like HBSwiss invests and does all the trading moves for a trader based on all the calculations and equation, reducing the room for human error.

Many companies are venturing into this driverless or auto driven cars, expecting the masses to come around and start accepting this new change in the auto industry.

The latest project in this cutting-edge field is the Google self-driving car. The off-white Lexus RX450h SUV sporting Google’s name and a spinning LIDAR apparatus on top cruised onto Stanford on Nov. 21 for a panel discussion by MIT’s VLAB.

The event reminded the audience that Google isn’t alone in this space.

Thilo Koslowski, head of automotive practice at business-analytics firm Gartner, surprised the audience with his prediction that at least three companies will have autonomous vehicles on the road in the next few years.

Koslowski was one-upped by panelists—including Nissan (Marteen Sierhuis); Mercedes-Benz (Luca Delgrossi); startups Peloton (Joshua Switkes) and Induct (Corey Clothier); and venture-capital firm Khosla Ventures (Sven Strohband)—with technologies, such as steering assist and adaptive cruise control, that already enable cars and trucks to relieve humans from the responsibilities of driving.

Koslowski emphasized that autonomous-driving technologies save time and energy, making them promising from a business perspective.

“Not just the car manufacturers will make money with autonomous driving,” Koslowski said. By his predictions, today’s free cellphones may become tomorrow’s free cars, monetized by software and services. Autonomous driving will bring radically new business models and untold new opportunities for profit, the speakers echoed.

Autonomous vehicles have come a long way, particularly over the past few years. The VLAB event revealed that progress among both incumbents and entrants continues at a rapid pace.