Opinion: The Calm before the Driverless Storm?
2018 had all the makings to be a monumental year in the transition from traditional vehicles to autonomous ones. As May 1 arrives, the first 4 months of this year have actually been relatively uneventful.
As we started this year, buzz was growing around autonomous fleets getting up and running by possibly GM Cruise, Uber or Waymo. We have continued to hear about the strides each of these companies are making, but we have no solid evidence of when the start date of each of these may be.
Granted, more progress than ever is likely being made internally at these companies, but they have largely stayed out of the spotlight so far this year. One possible explanation for the lack of public action could be in response to the tragedy in Arizona involving Uber. Due to this Uber has scaled back it's driverless operations and has ceased driverless operations in California.
I'm sure the public's response was felt in the boardrooms of both GM and Alphabet, Waymo's corporate parent entity. Each of these companies is publicly traded and any type of accident would have have major consequences for the company. This is not their only concern obviously, but there is no doubt the discussion has been had about what negative press would do to their overall company's status.
So what does the rest of the year hold? Maybe more of the same. More testing, learning and building on the inside but not a lot of change for the general public. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself. Due diligence and patience is imperative when dealing with something as important, and potentially dangerous, as driverless vehicles.
But we hope this is the calm before the driverless storm. We hope it is weeks or months, and not years, before these autonomous fleets and driverless vehicles go live. It is our hope that the proper balance is found between achieving a flawless driverless system and moving quickly to lessen the over 100 vehicle deaths just in the U.S. each day. Both of these are important but as the saying goes 'progress is better than perfection.' In this case, lowering the daily deaths caused by vehicles, is a step in the right direction.
Hopefully we truly are in the calm before the driverless storm and in the next 8 months the true transformation to driverless vehicles kicks off with the launch of a fully driverless vehicle or fleet, open to the public. Here's to hoping!