Five years ago, Uber predicted that they would have 200,000 driverless cars on the road by 2020. It’s now 2021 and Uber are far off this predicted number. So, what happened? We’ve seen the hype around the phenomenon dissipate over the last five years as the industry faces a number of technical challenges.
When you look at the technology, it can be very achievable to build a vehicle that can function in an environment, with specific weather conditions and the winds are favourable. But when you try to incorporate other factors, other weather conditions, and so on, this is where it becomes a much greater challenge. It seems that five years ago, people underestimated the scale of the challenge to create and operate a fully automated, safety-critical system in an unpredictable and infinitely variable environment.
Operating a self automated vehicle in city A, for example, can be achieved. However, trying to incorporate cities B and C creates several obstacles – the technology will need to know where every single traffic light is, where each lane is, and how to read the environment in general. This makes it hard to create one operating system that works everywhere.
When we look to the future, there are two paths we could go with introducing more automated vehicles. Firstly, the evolutionary path will build onto the existing driving assistance technology. However, this involves companies taking more responsibility when something goes wrong. Secondly, the revolutionary path paves the way for vehicles that require no driver, such as automated shuffles or robotaxis.
Nick Reed talks to Brink about all the ways in which self-driving vehicles face many challenges and the steps that need to be taken before Uber reaches the 200,000 driverless cars.
How will car insurance be affected with automated vehicles and will we ever fully overcome the challenges we face today?