Beginning a self-driving automobile is harder than launching a rocket

What’s harder than launching a rocket into space? Getting self-driving cars up and running … at least according to the boss of Waymo, Google’s spin-off for self-driving vehicles.

In an interview with the Financial Times, John Krafcik, Chief Executive of Waymo, said the process of developing autonomous vehicles was an “extraordinary matter”.

Krafcik continues, “It is more of a challenge than launching a rocket and putting it into orbit around the Earth” because “it has to be done safely over and over”. With missiles it only needs to be safe once, as long as there are people on board.

[Read: The crazy story how self-driving’s biggest star stole Google secrets, joined Uber, and became bankrupt]

That finding seems to back up the fact that Elon Musk is achieving success with SpaceX but is still working on the promise of self-driving vehicles.

Recall that a few years ago Musk said that by … last year there will be a fleet of 1 million self-driving Teslas on our streets. So, uh, yeah. There is still a long way to go.

Krafcik’s testimony follows a narrative that has slowly revealed itself over the past 12 months: self-driving cars are bloody difficult and far further from reality than we have been led to believe.

In fact, 2020 was the year Elon Musk said we’d have a fleet of 1 million robot axes – for what it’s worth that AI experts called BS back then. With autopilot and full self driving under increasing regulatory control around the world, this goal never seems further away.

Credit: WaymoFCA and Waymo Expand Autonomous Driving Technology Partnership, Signing Exclusive Agreement for Light Commercial Vehicles

Late last year, Uber, another company that was making a lot of noise about the potential of self-driving vehicles, sold its autonomous taxi division to rival Aurora.

After investing more than $ 20 million a month in driverless car development, the company apparently accepted the fact that self-driving cars as former CEO Travis Kalanick would not save the financial challenges and profitability believed.

Even Uber’s current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, said in 2018 that Uber self-driving taxis would hit the streets in 2019.

Krafick told the FT that having a fully scaled and functional self-driving car service by 2020 in 2015 didn’t seem like an unrealistic thought.

In the past five years, however, the company has become far more humble due to growing experience and understanding of how difficult it is to produce self-driving vehicles on a large scale.

During the interview with the FT, Krafcik made no comment on where or when Waymo will start his next service. However, the removal of the driver and tourists using the service could still take years.

Even so, Krafcik was unfazed that self-driving cars would eventually become a “thing,” and if they do, car ownership as we know it will change – apparently.

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Published on January 4, 2021 – 14:42 UTC

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