Long Road Ahead

What’s keeping self-driving vehicles off the road—for now

For years, self-driving vehicles have been the stuff of dreams, the very idea of them making the hearts of auto enthusiasts and science fiction fans race. As the day when this dream becomes reality draws nearer, many wait with bated breath to finally see these cars take to the road. Still, others—including consumers and some major automakers—have grave concerns about the technology and fear what’s coming down the pike.

Who’s on board?

A few automakers have promised to debut the first versions of self-driving vehicles to the public as early as 2017.1 Giants like Volkswagen, Ford and Hyundai have eagerly expressed their intentions to incorporate the artificial intelligence (AI) driving technology into some of their vehicles.

But when it comes to actually introducing a road-ready prototype with the manufacturer’s name on the grill, automakers have said very little. Why? Maybe because any and all tangible prototypes for self-driving vehicles are still in the early stages of development and testing. Perhaps automakers don’t want to be associated with an idea that could turn out to be a total wreck.

Google, a technological contributor to the self-driving revolution, is "very excited to push the technology forward," said Chris Urmson of Google’s self-driving car project.2

Despite the successful test of its autonomous prototype on U.S. roads in September 2014, the company has made it clear it is definitely not in the business of making vehicles.3 Rather than wait for an original Google Car, the public may be satisfied with "Google-enhanced" vehicles.

"It takes a lot of parts to build a car, especially a fully autonomous one," Urmson said. "To build our prototype, we worked with experienced automotive partners from around the world, and we couldn’t have come as far as we have without them."4

Advanced technology and expensive software such as Google’s will bring serious sticker shock for many: Some models have been estimated to cost $250,000. As a result, large organizations would likely be the earliest adopters to self-driving vehicles, as well as chauffeur and taxi services. It will take years before the price tag drops to levels that are compatible with the average vehicle buyer’s budget.5

Change for automakers, dealers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes 884,000 people as employed in the auto manufacturing industry, and 3 million work for car dealerships and maintenance subindustries.6 Whenever automakers do decide to ramp up efforts to produce self-driving vehicles—assuming autonomous vehicles become a favorite for consumers—these legions of employers and workers will undoubtedly feel disruptions and other effects on factory floors.

The successful incorporation of self-driving vehicles, however, could lead to an economic stimulus estimated at $2 trillion a year—and that’s only for the initial production designs.7

"It boils down to this," said Matt Debford, Business Insider’s transportation editor. "If you take the individual driver out of the picture, the first domino is pushed, and the long row of dominoes that is the global auto industry falls."8

While some of the traditional automakers continue to play coy on details about self-driving models, consumers’ opinions are fairly clear: A recent Autotrader.com online poll showed 65% of the 1,000-plus consumers surveyed felt self-driving vehicles were an "extremely dangerous idea."9

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to self-driving vehicles is that drivers have yet to be reassured of the driving capabilities of proposed autonomous systems. Most survey participants reported they were not entirely opposed to the vehicle’s suggested autonomous features (for example, collision interference and advanced GPS navigation), but they said losing the ability to manually steer was unsettling.10

Purportedly, the auto-piloting feature will eliminate a significant number of accidents each year. Vehicles with the AI systems are said to be able to override human error, but many consumers have yet to be persuaded.

Financial repercussions

Other concerns that may have some stakeholders tapping the brakes on self-driving vehicles include issues related to computerized dashboards, as well as traffic and construction frameworks. Undoubtedly, self-driving vehicles will create rocky roads for other segments of the economy. For instance:

Cabbies: Taking human drivers out of the equation will allow businesses to eliminate some jobs, such as limo and cab drivers. A study conducted by Columbia University in New York suggests a fleet of 9,000 autonomous cars could replace the city’s fleet of 13,000 yellow cabs.11

Dealers: Independent car dealers and small-business owners will certainly feel the effects as consumers transition from manual to self-driving vehicles: Manual vehicles would likely decrease in value until they almost completely disappear from the market. These markets could eventually shift to cater to the autonomous vehicle movement, but switching successfully could take years, which may be too long for some dealers.12

Insurers: Human error accounts for about 90% of all road accidents. If that percentage decreases, businesses could save billions of dollars in insurance and liability costs. But that means the auto insurance industry could stand to lose about $157 billion in premiums per year.13

Repair shops: If self-driving vehicles lead to a dramatic reduction in annual auto accidents (some predict a 90% drop by 2025), for example, will the need for mechanics and auto-repair shops decrease as well?14

Responders: Preventing a significant amount of serious accidents also could affect the number of hospital workers, police officers, paramedics, road crews and mechanics needed to deal with the aftermath.15

Granted, it would take an estimated 10 to 15 years to transition completely into self-driving vehicles, which should be some consolation to the millions of workers who might be looking for new jobs starting in 2025.16

Preparing for the future

Although some specifics are still out of reach, it is clear that the incorporation of self-driving vehicles could drastically affect not only the automotive industry, but would cause a ripple effect. From the elaborate reconstruction of traffic layouts to countless other adjustments for people adapting to an autonomous car society, there are still plenty of obstacles to maneuver past before self-driving vehicles become reality.

—compiled by Amy Klinkhammer, contributing editor


  1. Joe Krishan, "The Car of the Future: Driverless Cars Could Be Ready for Road by 2017," London Evening Standard, Jan. 9, 2015, http://bit.ly/readyforroad2017.
  2. Doug Newcomb, "Google: Just Another Auto Supplier?" PC Magazine, Jan. 16, 2015, http://bit.ly/pcmagGoogleCar.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Sarah Bickford-Smith, "The Autonomous Car; Socioeconomic Change on the Horizon," Tech Radar Blog, Dec. 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/tech-radar-cars.
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2015, www.bls.gov//iag/tgs/iagauto.htm.
  7. Bickford-Smith, "The Autonomous Car; Socioeconomic Change on the Horizon," see reference 5.
  8. Matthew Debford, "The Google Car’s Huge Threat to the Auto Industry," Business Insider, Jan. 14, 2015, http://bit.ly/hugethreat
  9. Benjamin Zhang, "Columbia University Study Reveals the Staggering Potential of Self-Driving Cars," Business Insider, June 2, 2014, http://read.bi/1A6MJny.
  10. NBC News, "Most Motorists Think Self-Driving Cars Are ´Dangerous’: Poll," NBCNews.com, Nov. 17, 2014, http://bit.ly/nbcnewspoll.
  11. Zack Kanter, "How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025," personal blog of Zack Kanter, Jan. 23, 2015, http://bit.ly/1DpXzdg.
  12. Zhang, "Columbia University Study Reveals the Staggering Potential of Self-Driving Cars," see reference 9.
  13. Morgan Stanley, "Autonomous Cars Could Save the U.S. $1.3 Trillion A Year," Business Insider, Sept. 12, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/morgan-cars.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Alyssa Abkowitz, "Do Self-Driving Cars Spell Doom for Auto Insurers?" Bloomberg Business blog, Sept. 10, 2014, http://bit.ly/bloombergbusiness.
  16. Kanter, "How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025," see reference 11.


Keynote Speakers Announced

A best-selling author, a school district superintendent and other prominent business leaders form the impressive list of keynote speakers scheduled to address audiences at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI) May 4-6 in Nashville, TN.

Shawn Achor is a New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, as well as a researcher on positive psychology. He is scheduled to speak Monday morning, May 4.

JoAnn Sternke is a superintendent for the Pewaukee School District in Wisconsin and serves on the board of examiners for the Baldrige National Quality Program and the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence. She is scheduled to speak Monday afternoon, May 4.

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive and author of three books including The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto,  Women on Top: How Female Entrepreneurs are Changing the Rules for Business Success and Willful Blindness. She is scheduled to speak Tuesday morning, May 5.

Charles Best is the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity—public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can pick the projects they want to support. He is scheduled to speak Tuesday afternoon, May 5.

Analjit Singh is the founder and chair of Max India Ltd., nonexecutive chair of Vodafone India, a director on the boards of Tata Global Beverages and Sofina NV/SA, as well as a member of the founders’ executive board of the Indian School of Business. He is scheduled to speak in Wednesday morning, May 6.

For more about the speakers and the conference, visit http://wcqi.asq.org.

Certification testing at WCQI

There will be the opportunity to register on site at WCQI for ASQ certifications exams taking place at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 3. On-site registration will be accepted (if space is available) from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 2.

There will be no on-site registration for Master Black Belt or Black Belt exams, but there may be on-site registration for the new Yellow Belt (YB) certification exam. The YB exam also will be offered Oct. 3 at local sections.

Mining group event

The ASQ Quality in Mining Interest Group is hosting a unique road show from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 5 at WCQI.

Wayne Lewis, a mining operator from Saskatchewan, Canada, will discuss his efforts to get quality from the mine into the C-suite.

Look for the full program and event location details on the interest group’s website at http://asq.org/mining.


ASQ to Honor 23 Thought Leaders

The namesake of the Kano Model, the well-known theory on product development and customer satisfaction, will be recognized as ASQ’s latest honorary member at next month’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Nashville, TN.

Noriaki Kano, professor emeritus at Tokyo University of Science, is also known for promoting the methods of Japanese total quality management. He will become only the 25th honorary member in ASQ’s history.

Kano will join 22 other honorees who will be presented with ASQ medals and awards at the event. The recipients are:

Distinguished Service Medal: Deborah L. Hopen, Deborah Hopen Associates Inc., Federal Way, WA; Elizabeth M. Keim, Integrated Quality Resources, Niwot, CO; David B. Luther, Luther Quality Associates, Fairfield, CT; and Jack West, Six Sigma Adventures, Glen Burnie, MD.

Crosby Medal: Adil F. Dalal, Pinnacle Process Solutions, Austin, TX.

Edwards Medal: Azman Shah Mohamed Noor, Sime Darby Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Feigenbaum Medal: Gurpreet Singh, Strategic Supply Chain & Six Sigma Consulting, Princeton, NJ.

Freund-Marquardt Medal: John G. Surak, Surak and Associates, Clemson, SC.

Grant Medal: Jimmy L. Smith, Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, IL.

Hutchens Medal: Amory B. Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, Old Snowmass, CO.

Ishikawa Medal: Manu K. Vora, Business Excellence Inc., Naperville, IL.

Juran Medal: W. James McNerney Jr., Boeing Co., Chicago.

Lancaster Medal: Sunil Thawani, Quality Indeed Consulting Services, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Shainin Medal: Hiroshi Osada, Faculty of Information and Communications, Bunkyo University, Chigasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.

Shewhart Medal: Dennis K.J. Lin, Penn State University, University Park, PA.

Brumbaugh Award: Tim Davis, We Predict Ltd., Swansea, UK; Lin, Penn State University; Christopher J. Nachtsheim, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; and Weijie Shen, Penn State University.

Gryna Award: Charles Rollin Gowen III, Jung Young Lee, Kathleen L. McFadden and Barton M. Sharp, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL.

For more details on the honorees, visit http://tinyurl.com/asq-awards. For more on the conference, visit http://asq.org/wcqi.


Video Channel Devoted
To Standard Revisions

A new collection of videos has been released that showcases the ISO 9001:2015 revision and standards experts addressing different aspects of the upcoming changes.

The ASQ Standards Channel (http://videos.asq.org/asq-standards-channel) currently features two bundles of expert interviews (16 total interviews) covering the basics of the ISO 9001 revision and key changes.

Four more bundles of videos addressing different topics are scheduled for release in the coming months as the revision’s formal release nears. Additional content will cover the effect on industries and business models, transitioning to the revision and the ISO 14001 revision.

Those who watch the videos can earn 0.025 recertification units for every 15 minutes of footage they view. Nonmembers’ cost is $30 per video, or $179 for a year of full access. ASQ members have access to all of the videos.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Sandy Furterer.

RESIDENCE: Columbus, OH.

EDUCATION: Doctorate in industrial engineering from the University of Central Florida in Orlando in 2004.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Furterer’s introduction to quality was a statistical process control (SPC) course in her industrial and system engineering curriculum at Ohio State University in Columbus. She loved the course and the simplicity and value of SPC charts.

CURRENT JOB: Vice president of process transformation for Park National Bank in Columbus. There she leads the department that designs and deploys the lean Six Sigma program across the corporation. This includes developing the governance, training and certification, mentoring and facilitating strategic process improvement initiatives.

PREVIOUS JOBS: Furterer designed and deployed the enterprise performance excellence (EPE) program for Holy Cross and Mercy Miami Hospitals in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Her team led lean Six Sigma projects, optimizing processes, analyzing data and implementing improvements. The team also developed and delivered lean Six Sigma training curriculum, and mentored Green Belts and Black Belts in process improvement efforts.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: She has been an ASQ member since 1991. Furterer is chair of the ASQ Columbus Section 801 and was recently nominated to be on the certified quality engineer exam committee.

OTHER ACTIVITIES/ACHIEVEMENTS: Senior member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, and a certified Master Black Belt in Community Six Sigma Innovation & Excellence, Harrington Institute, May 2004. Furterer also has taught an online course on quality assurance at Kennesaw State University in Georgia since 2007.

PUBLISHED WORKS: Authored Lean Six Sigma Case Studies in the Healthcare Enterprise (Springer, 2014) and Lean Six Sigma in Service: Applications and Case Studies (CRC Press, 2009), as well as co-authored Lean Systems: Applications and Case Studies in Manufacturing, Service and Healthcare (CRC Press, 2013) and Design for Six Sigma in Product and Service Development: Applications and Case Studies (CRC Press, 2012). She also has had several articles published in quality magazines and journals and presented more than 60 conference papers.

RECENT HONORS: Recently elected to ASQ’s 2014 class of fellows.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Writing lean Six Sigma books and teaching online quality and Six Sigma courses. Spending time with family and exercising.

QUALITY QUOTE: Furterer’s favorite quality gurus are W. Edwards Deming and Armand V. Feigenbaum. She embraces the systems thinking they both espoused and thinks of quality as the focus on the customer, realized through design and execution of enterprise process management.

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