Even with interest from the likes of Google and Tesla to the major automakers, fully self-driving cars may still be a decade or more away from hitting the road, Delphi Automotive Chief Technology Officer Jeff Owens said Thursday.
"To get the driver out of the driver seat, you're 10 years or 15 years away, at least," he said, citing the legal and regulatory hurdles. "You need an ecosystem for a fully autonomous car to work in."
But testing out current conditions, Delphi just completed a 3,500-mile, coast-to-coast journey in a specially outfitted Audi SQ5, which mostly drove itself. The test ride started in San Francisco on March 22 and ended Wednesday in New York City, where the auto show opens Friday. During the trip, at least two Delphi engineers, including one behind the wheel, were in the crossover at all times.
Delphi's marketing VP tweeted the accomplishment:
Owens said he was in the vehicle for parts of the journey, designed to collect real-world data from a sophisticated array of Delphi systems, including cameras, radar, laser mapping and wireless connected-vehicle technology. Delphi is one of the world's largest suppliers of automotive electronics and safety systems.
"The states are still working through how they will allow … [fully autonomous] cars on the road. But one thing's for sure, they want you to drive the speed limit," he said. "We were the only car on the road going the speed limit."
Even though fully self-driving cars won't be here tomorrow, Owens said, "A lot of the active safety technology is already on the road today. It's going to be one of the fast-growing spaces in all of automotive, the ability to prevent the collision before it occurs."
The Delphi CTO added, "The car never gets distracted even when the driver is."
Here's a corporate video of Delphi's self-driving, cross-country journey:
—Reuters contributed to this report.