We Will Not Be Seeing Self Driving Cars on the Road, as Expected
By Space Coast Daily // September 14, 2020
covid dampers autonomous car technology
Once upon a time, self-driving cars were expected to be ready by 2020. Now that the year has come, it’s been shown that technology isn’t close to being prepared to release these autonomous cars.
With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, companies that produce self-driving cars are coming into even more of a predicament: in order to test these cars on the roads, the cars need two or more people in them for safety reasons.
Due to the pandemic and social distancing rules, this requirement is currently not plausible.
Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, stated that due to the pandemic, they have been set back by at least two months due to social distancing and getting new hardware shipped from other countries.
2020 was supposed to be the year of self-driving cars, but amidst a global pandemic, production is slower than ever.
The New York Times stated that due to the pandemic, “There have been layoffs at Zoox, at the autonomous trucking companies Ike and Kodiak Robotics, and at Velodyne Lidar, which makes the Lidar sensors that are an essential part of most autonomous driving. Lyft, which recently laid off or furloughed more than 1,000 employees, said its autonomous division was affected.”
Self-driving car companies tend to have extremely high operating costs yet are not profiting anything right now. Self-driving car start-ups spend around $1.6 million per month on production costs.
Start-up company Voyage began to test it’s new vehicles before the coronavirus pandemic. They tested them inside retirement communities in order to focus on areas lower in traffic.
Companies such as Voyage have created simulated tests yet have struggled due to such a high number of potential situations that are not always predictable. The New York Times quoted Voyage’s vice president of engineering, Davide Bacchet.
“Simulation is not something you do in a vacuum, without any connection with the real world and real data. We can only progress to the point where the simulation is accurate,” stated Bacchet.
“While self-driving cars are the way of the future, they are not safe enough for American roadways currently,” explains attorney Bennett Schiller of Schiller Hamilton.
The company’s chief executive, Oliver Cameron, stated that Voyage’s self-driving car has been delayed for four months due to their inability to get necessary hardware and supplies from their supplier in China. Social distancing rules have made Voyage’s progress difficult during the past few months.
“That was a clear moment in time where the whole industry went from being a bull market to a bear market,” Mr. Cameron said. “COVID has taken us even further into the bear market.”
Their cars were still making mistakes and their technology proved itself to still be years from being ready to sell.
There is currently no estimated date as to when self-driving cars will be ready for sale to the public.
The US Department of Transportation recently created a program that tracks data concerning the operations of these new autonomous cars.
However, this information may not even be able to give the public any hard data. Regulations vary from state to state concerning what companies must disclose in their operations. 29 states and DC have published regulations and acted upon enforcing them and the federal government does not currently have any federal regulations.
The Trump administration has drawn back any regulations, stating that regulations can negatively impact innovation. Autonomous vehicles will create a gap in the job industry that might not be fulfilled otherwise.
Demand for jobs related to self-driving cars could be up to 6x more than graduates expected. This new self-driving car industry is expected to create over 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years which includes 30,000 jobs for engineers.
The Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab predicted in 2019 that by 2030, over 10% of cars will be self-driving and 20% will be hybrid or battery powered.
In addition to engineering jobs, the new self-driving car market will create over 65,000 trade jobs.
The self-driving industry threatens the ride-hail service industry, as if the population is overrun by self-driving cars that take riders to their destination, the industry will lose thousands of jobs across the country because drivers will no longer be needed.
Recently, TuSimple, a self-driving truck company, has announced its plans for the first autonomous freight network.
TuSimple is one of the biggest companies currently working to create self-driving trucks for the purpose of automated shipping. The company is working with delivery companies such as UPS and food delivery service McLane and beginning to expand to collaborate with other services to compete with other competitors.
TuSimple has self-driving trucks on the road, currently with drivers behind the wheel, and hopes to be able to have trucks driving alone when safe to do so. The company is beginning its route throughout Texas in 2020 and 2021 and hopes to expand its route from Los Angeles, CA to Jacksonville Florida by 2023. TuSimple is currently operating 40 trucks with 10 more in the works for later this year.
Amazon recently has been in the process of purchasing autonomous vehicle company Zoox, which Amazon will most likely be paying over $1 billion for. Amazon CEO of global consumer told Wired Magazine that “Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience.”
Zoox is known for its technicality, secretiveness and ambition. Zoox has been working on a robotaxi for years to eventually have their own ride-hail service with their own vehicles.
Zoox released a prototype image of this vehicle two years ago that looks similar to a golf cart. Amazon has stated that they wanted to be Zoox to be the Amazon for transportation and made a statement that “We’re acquiring Zoox to help bring their vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality.”
Amazon has been said to be a threat to ride-hail services such as Uber and Lyft with the company’s purchase of Zoox. Uber announced in 2016 that they would purchase a six-month-old autonomous trucking start-up, Otto, for $680 million.