Where are self-driving car technologies going, and what are the potential problems along the way? Those were some of the questions our “Talking Cars” panel aimed to answer recently before a live audience during Consumer Reports' annual meeting at our Auto Test Center (ATC) in central Connecticut.

The panel for episode 126 included moderator Wendy Bounds, CR’s vice president of content and chief content officer; Jake Fisher, director of auto testing; Jen Stockburger, director of operations at ATC; and David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of CR.

One key topic: Are cars today protecting us enough? Friedman says, “Sadly, the short answer is no.” 

“In 2016, 37,461 lives were lost on our roadways. About 2.5 million people were injured in over 6 million crashes. This is the definition of a public health epidemic,” Friedman says. “Our cars aren’t protecting us enough in a crash, and they and drivers aren’t doing enough to avoid those crashes in the first place, that’s why this automation is so exciting, because it could eliminate that.”

The panel broke down how today’s technology works, including front-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and whether those technologies are being used effectively. It also examined how long it might take to get to truly self-driving cars.  

Panelists: Jake Fisher, Jen Stockburger, David Friedman, and Wendy Bounds discuss self-driving technologies
Panelists: Jake Fisher, Jen Stockburger, David Friedman, and Wendy Bounds

As with other “Talking Cars” episodes, this one is available free through Apple Podcasts. (Subscribe to the audio or video.) You’ll also find the video on YouTube.