Despite the fact that driverless vehicles continue to make headlines, I must admit that the “news” hasn’t really been new! States continue to consider new legislation around driverless vehicles. Pilots continue to pop up around the world. Academic institutions continue to study the ethics around driverless vehicle decision-making. Companies continue to invest in the advancement of the technology. Don’t get me wrong – the industry is still investing millions into this technology and I’m still extremely excited about its potential, but I’m disappointed by the headlines.
The reality of today’s situation is that there was around a year or two of hype and we’re now in the “trough of disillusionment” (as shown in Gartner’s technology hype cycle). While driverless vehicles haven’t failed to deliver (as the Gartner model states), they are just taking longer to become a reality than most of the predictions stated. The good news is that this hype cycle predicts the “slope of enlightenment” and the “plateau of productivity” next. The technology will still come (assuming no major failures), but a lot of the hype will likely fall to the wayside.
I’m really hoping we’ll see the news stories dig a little deeper than “Driverless vehicle fender bender!” or “Driverless legislation is falling behind!” Instead, I’d like to see articles that discuss what IS working (pilots, legislation, policies) and how we can ensure quick, safe adoption of the technology when it is available. And maybe the government will even initiate headlines around what they’re doing to proactively prepare for driverless technology!! What headlines would you like to see today (non-political ones, please!)?
Lauren, I would argue that we’re not even out of the starting gate yet with driverless cars. That’s why there aren’t any “new” headlines. Some evidence: by far the best video explaining the future in which vehicles drive themselves is this one from Drive Sweden (https://youtu.be/WmYsWYDQxuI). It went up on YouTube 13 months ago and has just over 11,000 views. It had 6,000 views back in September. Sure, some momentum, but a far cry from a stampede.
I think of this time as the equivalent of 1989, when Steve Case launched AOL as a members-only online hangout (I’m old enough to remember). Those in the online world thought it was cool but couldn’t yet envision all that the internet would bring to society.
Autonomous vehicles are only at that first small step. We have many miles to travel before driverless vehicles transform life on the planet. And about 20 years.
“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be bumpy 20 years,” to paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve
You might like to take a look at a piece I published on Medium about “The future when cars drive themselves.” (http://bit.ly/2kRIvko). Consumers are cautiously interested, but unsure so far.
‘Donald Trump redirects 20% of Federal Transportation budget for next 5 years towards rapid development of driverless vehicle cities”
Some recent headlines I took note of:
Uber and Daimler Join Forces on Self-Driving Cars
California DMV released latest driverless disengagement reports, which offer some insight into the future of implementation
How connected cars are driving Microsoft’s fastest growing business
So much of the information we’re seeing in the press about self-driving cars is very United States-centric, with a good amount of the technological information, speculation, and initial innovations coming from Google, Tesla, Uber, and Ford. Certainly, some news has been coming out of Europe (with Audi being the most media-friendly of the non-U.S. car companies), but I suspect that North America and Europe will be left standing by the wayside –– from both a technological standpoint and a legislative standpoint –– as autonomous vehicles make huge inroads into Asia. China, especially, has the resources and the governmental willpower to make driverless cars a reality –– and a significant portion of the vehicles out on the roads –– in a relatively short time period.
Now, as slight change of topics: the Gartner Hype Cycle provides a good amount of guidance as to our expectations of technology. But there are multiple Gartner Hype Cycles taking place in the world –– certainly in the field of driverless cars –– and while we might be in the “trough of dissapointment” here in The States, it’s entirely possible that China has worked it’s way up the “slope of enlightenment.” The search/A.I. giant, Baidu, has poured a good amount of research renminbi into autonomous vehicle technology, and it should come as no surprise if Baidu and the Chinese government were to announce –– within the next year or two –– that the sale of human-navigated cars was to be phased out, with driveless cars being the preferred/mandated vehicles of choice for consumers.