LAS VEGAS -- Super Mobility Week -- Connected cars and the ultimate goal of a self-driving vehicle has been a hot topic in Vegas and beyond this week.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam predicted this week that autonomous autos could be on the road in the US within three to five years. His statements are predicated, however, on the US government spending money on upgrading roads with sensors and cameras to enable the self-driving revolution. (See Verizon CEO: Self-Driving Cars Could Hit Road Soon.)
Light Reading asked Chris Penrose, SVP of emerging devices at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), on Wednesday when he thought self-driving automobiles might arrive. Penrose didn't give an actual date, but suggested that the technological and infrastructural challenges mean that autonomous vehicles are still "years" away.
"It all depends on how you define it," Penrose said of driverless cars. He suggests, however, that "assisted driving" systems will become more common and popular in the coming years.
For example, AT&T has cooked up a haptic steering wheel system that could help drivers navigate without being distracted. The system works with the car's navigation system and location, and will vibrate on the right side of the wheel when the driver needs to turn right and vice versa.
"That's... built, we built it in our labs," says Penrose, adding that there is "no specific timeline" for when it might be in vehicles. AT&T has been building various technologies around the connected car to show off to automobile OEMs, and see if they are interested.
"If you want it to be in a car, it's typically three to four years from drawing board to road," Penrose added.
And despite being more conservative than some about self-driving cars, Penrose says that autonomous vehicles are part of the future of transport.
"We are seeing the concept accelerate," Penrose says. "The dates are getting pulled forward."
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading