New York Times: The Tech Titans Are Nowhere Close to Self-Driving Cars

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

The New York Times has outlined how Silicon Valley tech giants are beginning to “reset expectations” for the future of self-driving cars. According to the Times, only the richest companies are still working on the technology and they are expected to “still toil for years on their driverless car projects.”

In an article titled, “The Costly Pursuit of Self-Driving Cars Continues On. And On. And On,” the New York Times notes that many Silicon Valley tech giants predicted that self-driving cars would be commonplace by 2021, but as further tech issues have arisen and more testing has been done many are beginning to lower their expectations for the tech.

The NYT notes that seven years ago, Google’s self-driving division Waymo noticed that spring blossoms made its autonomous vehicles twitchy on the brakes, as did soap bubbles and road flares. Waymo discovered as time went on that despite rigorous testing and tech improvements, many of their vehicles were still unable to navigate American roads in the same way that a human driver could.

Some companies that that bet big on the future of self-driving cars began to sell off their divisions. The NYT writes:

Now the pursuit of autonomous cars is undergoing a reset. Companies like Uber and Lyft, worried about blowing through their cash in pursuit of autonomous technology, have tapped out. Only the most deep pocketed outfits like Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, auto industry giants, and a handful of start-ups are managing to stay in the game.

Late last month, Lyft sold its autonomous vehicle unit to a Toyota subsidiary called Woven Planet in a deal valued at $550 million. Uber offloaded its autonomous vehicle unit to another competitor in December. And three prominent self-driving start-ups have sold themselves to companies with much bigger budgets over the past year.

The tech and auto giants could still toil for years on their driverless car projects. Each will spend an additional $6 billion to $10 billion before the technology becomes commonplace — sometime around the end of the decade, according to estimates from Pitchbook, a research firm that tracks financial activity. But even that prediction might be overly optimistic.

Chris Urmson, an early engineer on the Google self-driving car project before it became known as Waymo, commented: “This is a transformation that is going to happen over 30 years and possibly longer.”

Consumer Reports stated in a recent article titled “Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ Falls Short of Its Name,” that Tesla’s self-driving car feature fails to live up to its big promises. Tesla has claimed for some time now that every new vehicle it makes has the hardware necessary to be fully autonomous, but Consumer Reports states that this dream is still over the horizon for Tesla cars.

Consumer Reports states:

The features might be cutting edge, even cool, but we think buyers should be wary of shelling out $10,000 for what electric car company Tesla calls its Full Self-Driving Capability option. Tesla claims every new vehicle it builds includes all the hardware necessary to be fully autonomous, and the company says that through future over-the-air software updates, its cars should eventually be capable of driving themselves—for a price.

But for now, Full Self-Driving Capability, which includes features that can assist the driver with parking, changing lanes on the highway, and even coming to a complete halt at traffic lights and stop signs, remains a misnomer. And as federal investigations of crashes involving Tesla vehicles add up, regulators are increasingly scrutinizing Tesla’s claims.

Earlier this week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles put Tesla “under review” for public statements that may violate state regulations that prohibit automakers from advertising vehicles for sale or lease as autonomous unless the vehicle meets the statutory and regulatory definition of an autonomous vehicle and the company holds a deployment permit, the agency’s press office confirmed to CR.

 

Read more at the New York Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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