How Long, Really, Until Self-Driving Cars Hit the Streets?

The Drive – To hear automakers tell it, we’ll all be rolling around in fully autonomous cars by the end of this year—and yes, I realize that’s three weeks away. But so rabid is the mania for autonomy among the Teslas and Audis and Cadillacs and Waymos and Mercedes-Benzes of the world that they’ve all been predicting its imminent arrival with the same zeal Virgin Galactic has while claiming it would be launching space tourists on suborbital joyrides since 2004. (Number flown so far: Zero.)

All revolutionary new technologies need a reasonably long runway, but the providers of that tech also need to set reasonable expectations for how long that runway will be. And the automotive manufacturer’s current predictions for self-driving cars are rosy, to say the least. Autonomy systems specialist Nvidiaannounced this year that fully self-driving cars (a.k.a. Level 5 autonomy) would be on the road by 2025, and Bosch declared it would hit Level 4 autonomy by the same date, according to a report in Automotive News. BMW claims Level 4 and 5 will be ready by 2021, and Audi and Ford think they’ll reach Level 4 by 2020. Volvo has its Drive Me program rolling out now, but only in a test program of 100 vehicles in Sweden. But it’s also selling its XC90 SUVs to Uber for its robo-taxi effort, which the ride-hailing company claims will bow by 2021.

But what those projections actually mean varies wildly. Manufacturers are often ready with exciting dates, but are predictably cagey about the details—relative to where such vehicles would be deployed, under what circumstances, and with exactly what suite of technical capabilities. Furthermore, it’s never truly clear if they’re folding in the legality and liabilities of such technologies, or the actual consumer appetite for it.

Read more at The Drive.

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Autonomous car
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Robotics/AI
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Land Rover MENA, CC BY 2.0