Waymo Car For the past couple of months I’ve been teaching a lawyer how to drive. Early on in the process she asked me: “Is driving going to be an obsolete skill by the time I get my licence?” It turns out that the answer is “no”, partly because she’s learnt pretty fast, and partly because the car industry has been recalibrating its timetable for delivering autonomous cars.
John Krafcik runs Waymo – the ‘driverless’ car start-up from Google parent company Alphabet – which is generally considered the world leader in autonomous cars. In November, Krafcik was reported by the CNET news service as saying he didn’t think autonomous cars would ever be able to drive at any time of year in any weather and any condition. “Autonomy always will have some constraints,” he said, adding, “It’s really, really hard … You don’t know what you don’t know until you’re actually in there and trying to do things.” This seems like a change in tone. Winding back expectations
Back in 2017, when I reported on autonomous vehicles for The CEO Magazine , the major car makers, rideshare firms and hire-car businesses mostly appeared convinced that sensor-laden robot cars were coming soon. They generally expected that this change would lead to the emergence of “mobility services”, where people simply use whichever shared autonomous vehicle is provided in answer to their electronic call. They had large autonomy programs and alliances with technology firms like Nvidia.
Ford CEO Mark Fields had announced in 2016 that the company planned to offer fully self-driving vehicles to mobility services businesses by 2021. Meanwhile, Waymo was promising a fully driverless taxi service by the end of 2018.
It’s now 2019. Waymo announced in December a ‘taxi service’ called Waymo One, but it’s just for the same people who participated […]