Google: Self driving cars in 3 to 5 years. Feds: Not so fast

The self-driving car could be available to consumers in 3-5 years, the head of Google’s autonomous driving project says. That’s the most optimistic timeframe yet. Other projections have been for 2020 and beyond, which still beats “probably not in our lifetime.”
The timeline came from Anthony Levandowski, Google’s product manager for autonomous driving, speaking at a Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) conference in Washington last week. “I can’t tell you you’ll be able to have a Google car in your garage next year,” Levandowski said. But he added, “We expect to release the technology in the next five years.
In what form it gets released is still to be determined.” Releasing technology is different than announcing a self-driving car going on sale in 3-5 years. The real challenge could be getting the self-driving car approved for use of public highways everywhere, not just the handful of states that allow self-driving cars for test purposes.
It’s a free country and if you want to mount a soap box and speak out in a public park, you can do it today. If you want to sell a motor vehicle, you have to meet an array of fuel-economy, stability, and crash safety tests, and those take time. Years sometimes. Self-driving cars would have to prove they can drive themselves, deal with jaywalking pedestrians, stop or at least slow when a crossing vehicle runs a red light, and deal with software glitches.
Performance metrics for self-driving cars don’t exist yet and the Department of Transportation, which doesn’t offer bonuses for working at internet speed, may be more deliberate and methodical than Google.