This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Why So Many Experts Over-Promised on the Arrival of Autonomous Driving

Autonomous driving ain’t easy. While Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised back in 2016 that its cars would support fully-autonomous cross-country driving by the end of the following year, he admitted last week that it’s “extremely difficult to achieve a general solution for self-driving that works well everywhere.”

Tesla’s hardly alone in terms of autonomous driving projects that have hit roadblocks: Uber laid off most of its autonomous driving unit earlier this year. Waymo, another industry leader, was also the subject of an August report in The Information which said that its cars struggle to turn left on faster roads and fail to interpret basic street features.

Taken together, it all begs the question of how so many smart predictions got ahead of themselves in terms of what it would really take to bring autonomous driving to the road. Part of the problem may have to do with underestimating how differently we all drive.

“I agree with Musk that self driving in its current state does not work well everywhere,” Shaoshan Liu, co-founder and chairman of autonomous robotics firm PerceptIn, tells Inverse.

Liu identifies two big roadblocks for mass adoption. The first is that autonomous cars are incredibly expensive right now, costing between $500,000 and $1 million to build, and most run simply for demonstration purposes. Tesla is promising full autonomy for its complete range that starts at $35,000, conditional on two software unlocks that can cost as little as $8,000 together, but this has yet to reach consumers.

The second impediment is that, despite the high cost, autonomous cars still don’t work very well. They struggle in most everyday situations, making them impractical for wider use. Despite the report, Waymo is still widely considered among the frontrunners in the autonomy race, with plans to launch its autonomous taxi service in Arizona later this year.

Article continues below

Elon Musk is pushing the boundaries of where we can go and what we can do. Don't miss a beat by signing up for Musk Reads, our weekly newsletter about all things SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company.
Subscribe:
Even Waymo struggles with driving.

Tesla has faced similar issues. Autopilot, its driver assistance feature that’s designed as a stepping stone to full autonomy, was meant to include a “Navigate on Autopilot function that could steer a car off the highway at the correct exit, but Musk held the feature back at the last minute for “a few more weeks of validation.”

Some problems can even have devastating consequences. An autonomous Uber killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in March, becoming the first person ever killed by a self-driving vehicle. The incident caused the company to immediately put the brakes on its autonomy program.

Experts have suggested a number of solutions to utilize the technology in a safer but still effective manner. Andrew Ng, whose venture fund invests in autonomous car firm Drive.AI, told Bloomberg that a good solution could be completely segregating autonomous cars from pedestrians. Gary Marcus, a professor at New York University, dismissed Ng’s idea as “just redefining the goalposts to make the job easier.”

“In order for this technology to progress, we have to begin by adopting autonomous driving technologies in low-speed scenarios, such as university campuses, industrial parks etc,” Liu says. “Low-speed environments make it easier and much more affordable to ensure safety, thus allowing immediate deployment to deliver the benefits of autonomous driving. Then, as technology advances and experience is gained, it will be possible to consider gradual upgrading to higher speeds, ultimately exhibiting vehicle performance equal that of a human driver in any driving scenario.”

Accidents will happen though, and the world needs to prepare for that. Shashi Verma, chief technology officer at the Transport for London government body, said at a November 2017 event that “the fundamental problem that the automotive industry would have to solve is [while] the world is perfectly happy killing half a million people on the roads every year…the first robot that kills a person will be a news story.”

Experts are still deeply divided on how cars should respond in such a situation. A study published this week in Risk Analysis: An International Journal entitled “How should autonomous cars drive? A preference for defaults in moral judgments under risk and uncertainty,” conducted a survey and found respondents prefer autonomous cars to stay in their lane and perform an emergency stop rather than take more drastic action. A representative from Mercedes-Benz, however, said in 2016 that the car should prioritize saving the driver over bystanders, as it’s the variable the car can best control. These two philosophies could conflict in the real world.

A Mercedes-Benz driving itself.

So when will autonomous driving really reach the road? Musk has suggested cross-country trips could be achieved with an alpha version of the next software update. Waymo plans to expand out its limited Arizona taxi trials to more consumers gradually over time. Computer chip developer Arm, however, claimed last month that real production of full autonomous vehicles for consumers could come as late as 2027, around 10 years after Musk’s original deadline.

The dream of going to sleep and having your car whisk you to another place could remain a dream for most of the coming decade.

Media via Waymo, Mercedes-Benz/YouTube, Tesla

iPhone 11 reviews: 'terrific' battery and camera, but maybe wait to upgrade

Do you need the latest iPhone?

Before considering the iPhone 11, ask yourself this: do you actually need a new iPhone?

That’s the question circling around Tuesday’s iPhone 11 reviews ahead of its Friday launch, which praise Apple’s latest smartphone for delivering an even better camera, even longer battery life and even faster performance. But gone are the days when each yearly update would bring groundbreaking new features like video recording, a front-facing camera, or nine times faster graphics performance. Phones are already pretty fast, take good pictures and tend to last most of the day.

iOS 13: Apple's Golden Master Download Sets the Stage for a Major Release

Apple's next software update is almost here.

IOS 13 has nearly arrived. On Tuesday, Apple took the wraps off the golden master for its next major smartphone software update, giving developers the chance to test out the possibly-final version of the software before it rolls out to consumers.

The launch of the iOS 13 golden master, which came just after the company unveiled the iPhone 11, brings a slew of new features to the iOS platform. Dark mode has finally made its debut, offering a new selection of user interface colors that will shine on the high-end OLED iPhones. A new photos app curates favorites in a smarter interface, new mapping features detail the world, and a new reminders app helps users remember their most pressing tasks faster.

Apple iPhone 11: When Does It Come Out? Preorder, Delivery, and Sale Dates

The new iPhone is about to hit stores.

The iPhone 11 is almost here. On Tuesday, Apple unveiled three new devices, all touting the next smartphone’s name — the dual-camera iPhone 11, and the triple-camera iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Apple’s latest smartphone release looks set to turn heads. The new devices use an A13 Bionic chip, dubbed by the company as the fastest CPU and GPU ever to ship in a smartphone, 20 percent faster than the A12. All three devices offer a new ultra-wide-angle lens, enabling users to fit subjects in the frame even in tight spaces and offering new creative effects. 5G is a no-show, but all three support Wi-Fi 6 and faster gigabit-class LTE.

iPhone 11 Pro Price, Release Date, Design for the A-13 Bionic Bad Boy

Is it worth the upgrade?

Apple revealed a couple of new devices on Tuesday, but the biggest announcement for early adopters is without a doubt the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. This cutting-edge smartphone features the latest camera technology, an A-13 Bionic, improved battery life and more. Here’s everything you need to know about the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, from price and release date to specs and features.

iPhone 11 Launches With Dual 4K Cameras, Lower Price and A13 Chip

Apple's new phone is here.

The iPhone 11 has arrived. Apple’s next-generation smartphone launched Tuesday to great fanfare, offering a much-improved camera, an even faster processor, and even lower price.

The phone, the successor to the 2018 iPhone XR, improves on its predecessor in a number of ways. It adds a second, wide-angle camera lens alongside the original single lens. It offers the A13 Bionic chip, billed by the company as the fastest CPU and GPU in a smartphone. It also comes in at $699, $50 cheaper than the $749 iPhone XR.