This week, General Motors finally acknowledged that it was not going to meet its self-imposed 2019 deadline for rolling out a self driving robotaxi service on the streets of San Francisco under its Cruise Automation subsidiary.
Anyone closely monitoring the situation knew that GM wasn’t going to meet the deadline, as there is no company on earth right now that has cracked the self driving code and developed a Level 4 or Level 5 autonomous vehicle. You’d certainly know it if a company had figured out the solution to this complex problem – whoever does stands to make billions of dollars and would rewrite the mobility playbook overnight.
For that reason, it’s easy to see why companies are setting unrealistic deadlines for self driving tech and publicly boasting about their system’s capabilities – even if the system isn’t close to being ready. A massive amount of investment is required to develop self driving vehicles and companies like Cruise and Google’s Waymo are desperate to prove that their system is the one thats worth backing.
But the rosy rhetoric surrounding self-driving vehicles has left some confused. Less informed car and tech enthusiasts that listened to companies like Cruise may think self-driving cars are coming soon or are already here, when the reality is that a Level 4 or Level 5 robotaxi is still very, very, very far from reality.
“The technology is simply not ready yet,” said Sam Abuelsamid, a principal analyst at Navigant Research with a focus on mobility, told The Star Online. “It is not sufficiently safe, reliable and robust to be able to handle all these situations that people are going to encounter in the real world.”
Indeed, many of these real-world factors seem to not even be on developer’s radars. Waymo can operate a beta version of its robotxi service with safety drivers behind the wheel on the wide, well-lit streets of Arizona, but can it do the same on a dark, snowy road in Detroit with poor lane markings? What about in a torrential rain storm? For these vehicles to be truly ready for the public, they need to be able to handle whatever is thrown at them. The public won’t just accept them making mistakes, either. They have to be better than humans, or they won’t be adopted en masse.
“Until these systems can become better than humans, people aren’t going to trust this technology,” Abuelsamid said. “We can’t put this stuff out there and have it crashing into people and crashing into cars and expect people to accept the technology.”
Source: The Star Online