Ryan Avent believes that self-driving cars will be commercially available within the next 16 years. Tim Lee differs

 [Avent] thinks his infant daughter will never need to learn to drive because self-driving cars will be ready for prime time before she reaches her 16th birthday in 2026. I’m more skeptical. I think self-driving cars are coming, but I doubt we’ll see them available to consumers before the 2030s. So I proposed, and Ryan accepted, the following bet:

I bet you $500 that on your daughter’s 16th birthday, it won’t be possible and legal for someone with no driver’s license to hop into a self-driving car in DC, give it an address in Philly, take a nap, and wake up at her destination 3-4 hours later (depending on traffic, obviously).

The car must be generally commercially available–not a research prototype or limited regulatory trial. It can be either purchased or a rented “taxi.” And obviously there can’t be anyone helping to guide the vehicle either in the car or over the air.

Reihan sides with Lee:

Like Tim, I hope he loses the bet. I’d pay more than $500 to hasten the arrival of self-driving cars as a mass market phenomenon. Yet believing that self-driving cars will be firmly entrenched by 2026 requires a great deal of confidence in the good sense of regulators and juries and in the pace of technological progress when it comes to the knotty problem of mimicking human intuition.