Numerous entities ranging from carmakers to tech companies have been working on autonomous or self-driving vehicles for years.
Now reality may finally be settling in.
In a recent speech, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said: “We’ve overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.”
In March, Ford announced it plans to invest $900 million in its southeast Michigan footprint, as part of a $11.1 billion investment in global electric vehicles. The expansion includes the first autonomous vehicles being produced starting in 2021.
It appears that some of those vehicles will still be prepared, but they may not be seen outside of highly controlled and narrow applications because “the problem is so complex,” said Hackett.
Ford is not the only company backing off a bit from an autonomous vehicle future.
At CES earlier this year, Toyota seemed to modify, if not shift, its position on self-driving cars, with an emphasis now on creating technologies to help people drive better rather than having cars drive themselves, as I wrote about here at the time ("CES 2019: Toyota Shifts Focus To Assisting Drivers, Not Displacing Them").
In its IPO filing last week, Uber now doesn’t appear to have any high expectation for self-driving vehicles dominating roads any time soon.
“We believe that there will be a long period of hybrid autonomy, in which autonomous vehicles will be deployed gradually against specific use cases while drivers continue to serve most consumer demand,” states the prospectus.
The technology to have a car drive itself down the road is not the issue.
Rather, it’s the context -- or everything else that is happening in the environment around the car as it moves along -- that can’t yet be factored.