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Howes: Race to autonomous future far from starting line

Howes: Race to autonomous future far from starting line

GM Cruise LLC CEO Dan Ammann, right, is fond of saying competitors in the autonomous-vehicle space are “in a race to the starting line.” (Photo: Noah Berger for General Motors) GM Cruise LLC CEO Dan Ammann has seen the autonomous future and he likes to say it boils down to this: “We’re in a race to the starting line.”

Meaning the days of electric driverless vehicles plying public streets, sharing the road with unwashed masses steering 20th-century metal powered by gasoline, are not coming as quickly as the hype suggests.

The reality check is here. Managing expectations down and educating the public are the newest new things for major players in the space because getting the technology right and making it safe are more important than being first.

At last week’s CES electronics show in Las Vegas, a new coalition of automakers and non-profit organizations announced formation of the Partnership for Automated Vehicle Education: “Its members believe that in order to fully realize the benefits of driverless technology,” according to its website , “policymakers and the public need factual information about the present and future state of technology and its potential benefits.”

As automakers and tech companies partner and position themselves to compete in the Auto 2.0 space of mobility, autonomy and electrification, they’re also coming to terms with just how challenging the road ahead is — and how economic conditions not so far ahead could affect the journey.

In a note in advance of the opening this week of the North American International Auto Show, Morgan Stanley predicts investors will “place greater emphasis on Auto 1.0/Macro vs. Auto 2.0 in 2019.” That’s because automakers’ ability to generate revenue and profit in a plateauing car and truck market is critical to their ability to invest in expensive technology.

And investing in a still-evolving future can […]

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