Lost in autonomous confusion
With Alphabet’s Waymo imminently set to launch the world’s first self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona (they’re already in testing with members of the public), it’s no surprise that other firms are keen to show how close they are to their own launches.
The headlines this week promise that autonomous taxi services will launch in the UK
and elsewhere in the US
within three years.
Contrast that with the recent news that Tesla is removing its ‘full self-driving’ option
. Elon Musk admitted that it was causing too much confusion, seeing that it does nothing at all right now. This is especially understandable when you consider that Tesla has an assisted driving feature it calls 'Autopilot.’
'Confusion’ is the right term. According to Thatcham Research, 70% of people believe you can buy autonomous vehicles already, and 11% “said they’d be tempted to have a nap, read a paper, or watch a film while using one of the highway-assist features available today,” Wired reports
This all seems very cart-before-horse, or even 'car-before-A.I.’ I’m seeing very little indication that self-driving tech will be ready for use in normal traffic by 2021. Even if the tech was ready, making sure laws are in place and existing insurance policies are carefully reworded to account for driverless vehicles will take much longer.
Aggressively pushing promised timescales to the shortest possible window do nothing but hype up tech that will likely not be mature enough for mainstream use for years.
At best, it will leave the public disillusioned with the 'slow’ progress of autonomous tech. At worst, it will leave them injured or dead as the grossly over estimate the abilities of the tech they can use today.