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Five myths the self-driving car industry needs to address

Padmasree Warrior, chief executive officer of U.S. operations for NextEV Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Padmasree Warrior, chief executive officer of U.S. operations for NextEV Inc.

A handful of myths about self-driving cars are limiting their adoption and innovation, says Padmasree Warrior, CEO of electric-vehicle manufacturer NextEV.

During a Saturday panel discussion at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, she pointed out these five challenges she believes the industry faces right now.

No. 1: Autonomy and performance are mutually exclusive

Warrior, who previously served as chief technology officer at Motorola and Cisco, said many companies and people believe that self-driving cars can't be as good as traditional vehicles. However, her company NextEV was able to set a record for the fastest lap driven by a self-driving car at the Circuit of the Americas Race Track (COTA) in Austin, Texas at two minutes, 40 seconds. With a driver, it did a lap in 2 minutes, 11 seconds, which was the fastest time for any car with driver.

No. 2: Autonomy is only a feature

Most companies think of self-driving as an added feature and don't build the car thinking of it as its main function, Warrior said.

"In order to drive that innovation, we have to think of the car as a computer," she explained. "If you think of the car as a robot, driven by software, you have to reorient the car."

No. 3: Autonomous vehicles compromise safety

Self-driving cars could limit car accidents caused by distracted driving, which is increasing as we rely more on our mobile phones, Warrior noted.

No. 4: Autonomy is exclusive

Self-driving cars will be more efficient than human drivers -- for instance, they won't wear out the brakes by braking unnecessarily -- which means they'll last for more miles than traditional cars. That, combined with the rise of rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft, means households won't need to buy as many vehicles, Warrior believes. She also thinks the eventual cheaper cost of creating driverless cars will make it easier for everyone to own one.

"If you think about autonomous vehicles, they democratize mobility," she said.

No. 5: Autonomy is about technology

Self-driving cars can solve human issues, Warrior said. For instance, they could make drivers less reliant on expensive parking since cars could park themselves outside cities, she noted, adding that digital technology tends to be cheaper than analog construction.

"The opportunity we think we have is to change our experience from driving to being, being human beings," Warrior said.