Self-driving vehicles will “inevitably” be on the roads in Ireland within a number of years, according to a conference organiser.
Philip McNamara said technology was 40 times safer than manual driving and it was only a matter of time before people backed the industry.
A MobilityX conference in Dublin on Thursday aims to highlight the benefits of autonomous vehicles.
Mr McNamara, from Galway, said: “I live in San Francisco and there’s hundreds of self-driving cars that are on the streets every day.
“I think it’s inevitable that they will be over here in a few years’ time.
“Right now, if you try and drive that car in self-driving mode in Ireland it’s illegal.
“About 160 people die on Irish roads every year and we know that self-driving cars are 40 times safer than regular manually driven cars.”
The industry has received backing for its potential to bring vehicle manufacturing-related jobs to Ireland.
Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA, tried to allay fears the developing technology could see employment lost in transport by saying work was being done to “redeploy” and “upskill” workers.
He added: “You can’t hold back the tide, the challenge is to figure out what sectors we can grow jobs in.
“Clearly it’s the way the automotive sector is moving.
“Ireland hasn’t traditionally had a strong presence in the heavy engineering part of car manufacturing.
“But as it moves closer to the technology sector Ireland can definitely play a part, with the depth of technological skill and the companies we have here.”
The conference will see global leaders in the industry gather to discuss development of the sector and its opportunities within Ireland.
A follow-up event will take place on Achill Island in Mayo between May 11 and 13.
The west of Ireland has been identified as a promising location for testing the technology.
Dan Kiely owns a Tesla car with self-driving capabilities.
He has been unable to drive it in Ireland, but has experienced the technology in San Francisco.
Mr Kiely said: “It’s like you’re flying, not driving.
“If I’m driving from Cork to Dublin, to be able to email, social media, I can watch a movie, download, stream.
“For me, it’s a no-brainer.”