At the TRB workshop on road vehicle automation yesterday (Weds 17 July) Ron Medford made it clear that Google would like to bring a NHTSA Level 4 automation (i.e. capable of unmanned) product to market. There are clearly many issues and hurdles, so no guarantees, but the Google aspiration is for this Level 4.
Last year, 25 Sept 2012, Sergey Brin intimated that they would have SDC tech in public hands within 5 years. Earlier this year two separate Google SDC team members have stated that they would like to have the SDC tech in public hands within 5 years.
We shouldn't 'hang our hats' on these aspirations, but at the same time I take this as a very clear advance warning signal that we are now potentially running out of time to prepare for this.
For me this is a potential 'wow' moment. Level 4, unmanned is the 'game changer' - which is the language used by the Director of the California DMV stated at the conference the previous day. The clincher for credibility, in my opinion, came from there being a Senior Researcher from the White House who spoke off the record.
Level 4 is the 'quantum leap', the 'paradigm shift', the 'game changer'. If it is less than 5 years away then we don't have much time to prepare.
The Workshop has been incredible thus far - significantly more attendees than last year and the level of knowledge and awareness is so much greater. The public and private sectors are well represented and the language/mood of some has moved from guarded/skeptical to open and even excited.