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Reporters' Roundtable: Self-driving cars (podcast)

Two great experts with ties to Stanford talk about the coming robot uprising. Sorry, I mean when we're going to be sharing the road with autonomous vehicles.

Today we're talking about self-driving cars. Our news hook, of course, is the recent New York Times story about Google developing self-driving cars--cars that are already cruising the public California highways and driving in traffic.

There have been other big stories in the development of self-driving cars. The first big news to get the public's attention was the running of the DARPA Grand Challenge for robotic cars, in 2004. A car built by Carnegie Mellon University drove the farthest, but no vehicle finished the course. In the 2005 Grand Challenge, five vehicles finished, and the winner was a vehicle called Stanley, which was developed by Stanford.

We're going to talk today about self-driving cars and about what's going on at Stanford, as the team there is preparing to take on even more challenges in self-driving cars. We have two great guests in the studio:

First, Sven Beiker, executive director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford. Since Spring 2009, he has taught the Stanford class "The Future of the Automobile." Sven was at BMW from 1995 to 2008, working on technology scouting, innovation management, systems design, and series development.

Also with us: Paul Saffo, managing director of foresight at Discern Analytics and visiting scholar at Stanford. Paul is a noted futurist whose essays have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Now playing: Watch this: Reporters' Roundtable 52: Self-driving cars!


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Show notes and talking points

Overview: Where are we on the road to the autonomous car?

Talk about current autonomous solutions and driver aids.

What's in robocars for Google?

Problems yet to solve, like legal and insurance issues. Who gets the ticket? Who's responsible for a crash?

What happens when the first robot car crashes and kills its driver or a bystander?

If the human is ultimately responsible, how are you going to keep them alert when the car is doing all the work?

Will we need new roads? New driver education?

Talk about how contests, challenges, and racing move innovation forward. See the Grand Challenge (PDF).

Talk about Pikes Peak car at Stanford. What's the difference between it and the DARPA Challenge car, Stanley?

How will robocars come to real-world car buyers? When can we buy them?