Driverless Car Revolution is Running Late

The adoption rate for the driverless car is behind schedule.

  • Engineering challenge of the decade
  • Auto makers are becoming more cautious
  • Greatest obstacle is fear of trusting a robot
  • Vehicle insurance and laws would have to be overhauled

In this outstanding article from The Week the staff explains:

Photo of AutoX - part of Driverless car revolution

Driverless Car Revolution Update

“Carmakers have been claiming that autonomous vehicles, or AVs, will start filling the roads by 2020 and take over by 2030. Instead, AVs are pumping the brakes, as their futuristic technology has faltered in the unpredictable chaos of real-world roads.

The rollout of General Motors’ self-driving car subsidiary, Cruise Automation, is years behind schedule, and prototypes by Ford, Tesla, and the Google affiliate Waymo would still flunk driver’s ed.

AVs sometimes react to parked cars as if they’re moving, and they get overwhelmed passing through construction zones. They’re shaky at challenging maneuvers like turning left against oncoming traffic. Americans remain deeply skeptical about their safety.

In March, an Uber-owned AV going 40 mph in Tempe, Arizona, fatally struck a 49-year-old pedestrian crossing the street in the dark when the vehicle’s perception system got confused by the bicycle she was wheeling. Uber suspended testing nationwide.

General Motors President Dan Ammann calls developing AVs that can navigate through urban traffic “the engineering challenge of our generation.” Klaus Fröhlich, BMW’s head of research and development, puts it more candidly: “Everyone in the industry is becoming more and more nervous that they will waste billions of dollars.”

Lidar falters in heavy rain and snow, and it struggles to detect the little plastic bumps that are sometimes used to divide lanes in California and other states. “We’re not even remotely close to being able to be truly autonomous in diverse conditions,” said Austin Russell, CEO of lidar manufacturer Luminar.

Motorists rely on human cues that technology cannot detect: the gestures of a traffic cop, or eye contact with a pedestrian or another driver that can help us predict their behavior.

Only about 25% of Americans would feel safe riding without a driver. This is the greatest obstacle of all.

It is going to be interesting to see how all of the VC money chasing this revolution is going to find a return.

For the complete article click here.

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