UC engineer: Kids born today will never learn to drive

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The head of a robotics research lab at the University of California in San Diego says he believes children born today will never have to drive a car – at least not the way we do today.

The Contextual Robotics Institute, now under the supervision of engineer Henrik Christensen, has set out to make driverless cars safe for a mass audience in anticipation of this new world of technology and transportation.

During an interview about the institute, Christensen told govtech.com writer Janine Fastenau, “I want to build a research institute that, ideally, will be in the top five in the world five years from now. Why not see if we can make San Diego ‘Robot Valley.’”

Christensen said he sees vehicles operated by humans as being a thing of the past in the U.S. within the next 15 years. He said companies like GM and Ford already say they’ll have autonomous, driverless cars on the roadways in five years.

LINK: The dying art of driving a stick

Christensen added that driverless cars would reduce traffic without improving infrastructure, increase productivity, and maybe even eliminate the necessity to own a car.

Back here, in present times, Tesla is the name of record for driverless technology in its vehicles. The reviews of its Autopilot mode have been mixed, with one fatal accident being partially attributed to the Autopilot’s failure to recognize another vehicle, then smashing into its side and killing the Tesla’s driver.  

Since then, video has emerged of another Tesla’s Autopilot mode apparently sensing a looming crash ahead – before the crash even happened.

What the future holds for our roadways - and our children’s need for a driver’s license – is yet to be seen, but we can all likely agree that safety will always need to be the priority.