Where Billions in Self-Driving Vehicles is Going in the US & China

Apollo
KEY POINTS
  • Despite its promise, a future full of autonomous vehicles still seems like a distant fantasy.
  • But tech giants, automakers, and start-ups from the U.S. and China, including Ford, GM, Baidu, Tesla, and Alphabet, have invested billions of dollars and years of R&D into making it a reality.
  • Robotaxis seems like a good bet to be first to make it to market in a major way. As one expert said, “Ride-hailing is a lousy business model with unhappy human drivers and urban mobility problems.”

Pony.ai, featured in the article, appeared in the 2022 Disruptor 50 List

For years, Alphabet’s Waymo and others leaders have promised autonomous vehicles are just around the bend. But that future has not arrived yet. Why not?

“In one word, it’s complexity,” said James Peng, CEO and co-founder of Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle company. “Every time there is a technical breakthrough, there are challenges. We have the AI, the fast computer chips, the sensors. It’s all solvable by fitting all the pieces together smoothly. 99.9% is not good enough to perfect the technology.”

 Despite promises of life-saving, climate-change fighting, and cost-efficient driving, the reality is that “the autonomous vehicle nirvana is 10 years out,” said Michael Dunne, CEO of autotech consultancy ZoZoGo. “While it’s not impossible to get there, even the most advanced technologies are not there yet and used mainly in confined areas where things are predictable. We are far, far away from universal acceptance.”