Why era of self-driving cars is still far off despite Elon Musk's big talk

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

autonomous vehicle takeover, “robotaxi” services, by 2021, Alibaba’s AutoX, Didi Chuxing, autonomous delivery vans, had to raise, limited roll-out,  5G , has an accident

It was almost six years ago that I harrumphed against the exuberant predictions about the imminent autonomous vehicle takeover of our roads. Today, quietly and without hubris, I can sneak a smile and say I told you so.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

A phalanx of tech visionaries have hailed the arrival of “robotaxi” services in the United States and China in the past few months. Even so, I will repeat: fully automated vehicles capable of driving on our open roads will not be here in most of our lifetimes, and certainly not in the lifetimes of old fogeys like me.

Chris Urmson, then the leading driverless engineer for Google’s project, now branded Waymo, predicted in 2015 that they were just a couple of years away from mass deployment, with plans to order 82,000 vehicles. Uber was projecting 100,000 driverless taxis on the roads by 2020. Lyft said most of its rides would be autonomous by 2021.

Global Tech News Daily

In 2016, Elon Musk predicted “complete autonomy” for his Tesla cars “in less than two years”. Just last month, a starry-eyed Musk insisted “full self-driving” technology would be solved this year. But as the Financial Times’ Patrick McGee said last July: “The closer they got to a consumer-facing product, the more complex the problem was understood to be.”

autonomous vehicle takeover, “robotaxi” services, by 2021, Alibaba’s AutoX, Didi Chuxing, autonomous delivery vans, had to raise, limited roll-out,  5G , has an accident

Global Tech News Daily

Tesla CEO Elon visits the construction site of Tesla’s Gigafactory in Gruenheide near Berlin, Germany, in August last year. Musk has pledged to solve full self-driving technology this year. Photo: Pool via Reuters

To be fair, there has been some progress. GM’s Cruise has won a licence to offer taxi services in an area of northwest San Francisco, but only for employees and between the hours of 11pm and 5am. Google’s Waymo has operated driverless ride-hailing in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, for about two years.

In China, where there is similar excitement about autonomous transport, Baidu’s Apollo Go is operating limited services in the Shougang Park area in Beijing and pilot services in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha and Cangzhou. Alibaba’s AutoX has operated some services in Shenzhen since last January. Pony.ai, in partnership with Toyota, is operating on the roads of a suburb of Shenzhen.

Didi Chuxing is road testing driverless shuttles in several Chinese cities. Truck.tech is developing autonomous truck services in Beijing and Tianjin, Plus and Iveco have been doing pilots on autonomous heavy-duty truck services and SenseTime is introducing autonomous buses in Shanghai.

Geely has announced plans to introduce Zeekr robotaxis in 2024. JD.com is operating autonomous delivery vans and KFC and Meituan are starting to deploy autonomous food delivery trucks.

But the roadblocks to an autonomous takeover remain high, and they do not sit with technology but rather are elsewhere. First is price. The latest-generation Waymo has 29 cameras, radar and lidar, or light detection and ranging lasers.

Such comprehensive sophistication carries a price tag of around US$200,000 per vehicle. This makes autonomous vehicles too expensive for personal use and puts a ride-hailing business model in acute jeopardy.

“Today’s driverless car groups are burning through untold amounts of cash,” McGee noted. Cruise alone has raised US$10 billion and opened a US$5 billion credit line to build more vehicles. Waymo has had to raise more than US$5 billion in the past two years.

Both Cruise and Waymo are valued at around US$30 billion. These are eye-wateringly high valuations and testament to the reality that their survival so far rests not on the viability of their products but on the deep pockets of their parent companies. It should be no surprise that China’s leading autonomous vehicle players are the country’s deep-pocketed hi-tech giants such as Baidu and JD.com.

The second roadblock is the challenge of a normal street environment, with bicycles, motorcycles, kids playing close to the kerb, snow and ice or rainy, uneven roads. As one expert noted: “Electronic chauffeurs will take us wherever we want, in complete safety – so long as we do not need to make any left turns across traffic.”

Third is the limited roll-out of the 5G internet services in most countries. This makes safe autonomous operations impossible in many areas.

Unsurprisingly, most successful pilot programmes have been in well-controlled driving environments – university campuses, science parks, well-monitored highway environments in suburbs and segregated bus- and truck-only lanes. Regulators with an anxious eye on safety have slowed roll-out to a snail’s pace, even though the argument is autonomous vehicles suffer fewer traffic accidents and thus cut road deaths.

This is in part because of the asymmetry of blame, which even Musk acknowledged after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced an inquiry into 11 Tesla car crashes. He said autonomous vehicle-makers will not be rewarded for the lives they save but can expect to be punished for the lives lost when an autonomous vehicle has an accident.

Beyond the regulators, insurers are also poised for battle on who should assume responsibility when an accident involves an autonomous vehicle. Vehicle manufacturers are in the early days of discovering the scale of future motor insurance liabilities and whether these will threaten commercial viability.

A further threat to the autonomous vehicle business model arises from the faster-than-expected deployment of advanced driver-assistance systems, which are becoming widely deployed in regular, human-driven vehicles. Technologies to manage things such as cruise control, emergency braking and lane-keeping might not replace the human driver, but they increase the safety and reduce the stress of modern-day driving.

My bet is that the most substantial breakthroughs in the next few years will be in controlled areas such as ports or industrial estates and for bus and truck operators using segregated lanes. I am not surprised that companies such as Nuro in the US are concentrating on home deliveries for the likes of Domino’s and Chipotle or Zoox are focused on last-mile delivery for Amazon.

The idea that private drivers will be taking our own autonomous vehicle out for a spin any time soon – an idea that had many leading motor manufacturers spooked a decade ago – is for the time being likely to remain firmly buried in the fertile imaginations of visionaries with spare billions to burn.

David Dodwell researches and writes about global, regional and Hong Kong challenges from a Hong Kong point of view

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Philippe Coutinho's agent has already revealed his thoughts on Liverpool transfer return

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Araujo taken in ambulance after sickening clash of heads with Barcelona teammate Gavi

Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo was taken off the pitch in an ambulance during their match against Celta Vigo and rushed to hospital. The Uruguayan was involved in a sickening clash ... Read more »

Aston Villa vs Liverpool: Report and player ratings Sadio Mane gives Reds a Premier League title boost

A much-changed Liverpool side came from behind to win at Villa Park to keep the pressure on league leaders Manchester City Read more »

Liverpool vindicated Jurgen Klopp’s risky rotation policy by doing just enough to beat wasteful Aston Villa

Klopp demoted Mo Salah to the bench and Andy Robertson from the squad but Liverpool had enough to reserve to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointment Read more »

Gary Lineker offers solution to Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy 'Wagatha Christie' case

Gary Lineker has offered a funny solution to the “Wagatha Christie” court case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. Coleen is being sued by Rebekah for libel at the High ... Read more »

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino announces plans to create football game to rival EA Sports

FIFA are planning to create their own football video game after it was announced their three-decade partnership with EA Sports is coming to an end. EA Sports have confirmed FIFA ... Read more »

Fabinho injury: Liverpool midfielder suffers suspected hamstring issue ahead of FA Cup final against Chelsea

The Brazilian pulled up as he sprinted after Philippe Coutinho and had to be replaced by Jordan Henderson at Villa Park Read more »

Man Utd youth coach assesses club's "exciting" kids and his own rise ahead of cup final

Justin Cochrane started his coaching career while a teenage player at QPR when he placed an advert in his local paper for juniors to teach. It didn’t make big news ... Read more »

One year on from football's social media blackout - what's changed?

More than one year on from the social media boycott aimed at tackling discrimination and vile abuse online has anything really changed? You'll remember that at the end of April ... Read more »

European transfer news: Real Madrid up stakes for Kylian Mbappe plus Casemiro exit

Real Madrid have long been linked with Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe and despite speculation the France star is set to sign a new contract with the Ligue 1 giants ... Read more »

Sadio Mane's 'childhood dream' comes to light as Liverpool star linked with summer exit

Sadio Mane 's dream destination has come to light amid links of a summer transfer to Bayern Munich. The Liverpool star is yet to sign a new contract with the ... Read more »

Jadon Sancho's Erling Haaland plea falls on deaf ears as he ignores Man Utd star's wishes

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Edu 'steps up' Arsenal transfer efforts for £17m Scotland star to replace Nuno Tavares

Arsenal have reportedly stepped up their attempts to sign Scotland star Aaron Hickey as a replacement for Nuno Tavares. After laying out the Gunners' transfer plans, technical director Edu is ... Read more »

Newcastle prepare summer transfer cull with as many as 10 stars 'facing axe'

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

5 Man City casualties from Erling Haaland transfer including brand new signing

The sight of Erling Haaland arriving at Manchester City will send tremors of terror throughout the Premier League – and perhaps to his team-mates as well – as the champions ... Read more »

Chelsea ace Antonio Rudiger signs Real Madrid contract with huge release clause

Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger has now penned a bumper pre-contract agreement with Real Madrid to bring his five-year stint at Stamford Bridge to an end, according to a new report. ... Read more »

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was spot on about Erling Haaland after revealing thoughts on Man Utd

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Fifth senior Man Utd figure leaves club as chief strategy officer exits in reshuffle

Manchester United have told their employees chief strategy officer Hemen Tseayo is stepping down from his position. A new era began at Old Trafford in February when Richard Arnold became ... Read more »

7 flops who cost more than Erling Haaland after bargain Man City transfer announced

The capture of Erling Haaland has sent pulses racing amongst Manchester City fans as the Premier League prepares to welcome the Norwegian hot-shot. The champions have agreed a £51million deal ... Read more »

Arsenal desperate to prevent Eddie Nketiah exit with six Premier League rivals keen

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Pep Guardiola reacts to uproar over Liverpool comments after Jurgen Klopp response

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Brighton starlet attracting transfer attention days after returning from loan

Highly-rated Brighton goalkeeper Carl Rushworth is back training with the Premier League club after his loan at Walsall ended. Rushworth made 43 appearances for Walsall keeping 11 clean sheets for ... Read more »

Lazio president responds to Man Utd's transfer 'interest' in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Lazio president Claudio Lotito insists Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is not for sale amid rumours linking him with both Juventus and Manchester United. The Serbia international, 27, has impressed for Lazio this ... Read more »

Cristiano Ronaldo's seven-year prediction on £30m Arsenal transfer speaks volumes

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Gary Lineker hits out at Patrice Evra for talking "utter nonsense" about Pep Guardiola

Gary Lineker has responded to Patrice Evra's claim that Pep Guardiola doesn't want any leaders at Manchester City due to his management. The former Manchester United defender believes the Spaniard ... Read more »

Stats show Antonio Conte justified in hitting back at Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool 'excuses'

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Borussia Dortmund immediately name Erling Haaland replacement amid failed Man Utd attempt

Borussia Dortmund have already replaced Erling Haaland by snapping up RB Salzburg hotshot Karim Adeyemi – despite Manchester United's late attempt to hijack the deal. Dortmund have been braced for ... Read more »

Patrick Vieira selects best players he played with and against during legendary career

Patrick Vieira has named Zinedine Zidane, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry as the best three players he played with during his illustrious playing career. Vieira, who is now the manager ... Read more »

Ralf Rangnick's 4 most controversial Man Utd remarks as Rio Ferdinand calls him "distasteful"

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Roy Hodgson responds to angry Watford fan backlash after his "snub" at Crystal Palace

Roy Hodson has apologised to Watford fans for failing to acknowledge them in the dark hour of relegation but insisted: “I didn't snub them deliberately.” As their relegation to the ... Read more »

Jesse Marsch quotes Gandhi, JFK and Mother Teresa in bizarre Leeds survival team talk

It is hardly “we’ll fight them on the beaches” stuff, but Jesse Marsch is using sayings by Gandhi and Mother Teresa to fire up his Leeds players for their relegation ... Read more »

Birmingham could sign ex-Atletico Madrid and Chelsea striker if Maxi Lopez buys club

Former Argentine footballer Maxi Lopez wants to sign free agent Diego Costa if he gets control at Birmingham. Birmingham’s Chinese owners are ready to sell a stake in the club ... Read more »

Jose Mourinho demands "explanation" and "respect" in furious Roma outburst

Jose Mourinho has demanded that Roma receive an “explanation” for decisions that went against them in their bruising 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina on Monday. The Giallorossi, not so fresh from ... Read more »

FA Youth Cup final 2022: Man Utd stars to watch vs Nottingham Forest, from Alejandro Garnacho to Joe Hugill

United take on Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford on Wednesday bidding for a record 11th competition triumph Read more »

Antonio Conte taunts Jurgen Klopp with strong response to Liverpool boss' dig

Antonio Conte has hit back at Jurgen Klopp's analysis of his Tottenham side, insisting that Liverpool were lucky to escape with a point from their weekend meeting at Anfield. Spurs ... Read more »

5 free agents Erik ten Hag could target with Man Utd summer transfer budget in question

jQuery(function(){ if (typeof jwplayer_load == typeof indefined) { var jwplayer_load = 1; jQuery(window).load(function(){ jQuery(".sc_video_shortcode_jwplayer").each(function(){ var _this = $(this); jQuery.get(jQuery(this).attr("url"), function(data, status){ if (typeof data.split("\n") !== typeof undefined) { var src ... Read more »

Man City confirm sensational Erling Haaland transfer to sign Europe's hottest property

Manchester City have announced the stunning capture of Erling Haaland after meeting his release clause at Borussia Dortmund. The Norway international, 21, has arguably been the most sought-after player in ... Read more »

Man Utd 'prepare formal bid' for Portuguese youngster who impressed Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United are reportedly preparing a 'formal proposal' for Sporting Lisbon centre-back Goncalo Inacio. Inacio, who came through Sporting's youth ranks, made his senior breakthrough in the 2020/21 season after ... Read more »

Jack Wilshere in Denmark: How Arsenal hero has fared as he provides vital assist

11 years ago this month, Jack Wilshere was fulfilling media duties for England ahead of the Three Lions Euro 2012 qualifying clash against Switzerland. Not one reporter in the room ... Read more »

Erling Haaland transfer: Man City confirm agreement in principle to sign Borussia Dortmund striker for £64m

City are still finalising terms with Haaland, who passed a medical in Belgium on Monday Read more »