Reality bites the driverless car fad
The Wall Street Journal
The bubble around self-driving cars is bursting, said Christopher Mims. Earnest announcements promise they’ll cut traffic, save cities, and improve the quality of urban life. Mercedes-Benz’s new vehicle even looks like a bubble. “Hardly a week goes by without fresh signposts that our self-driving future is just around the corner. Only it’s probably not.” Take the Mercedes Vision Urbanetic: As with most models in this realm, Mercedes has created “more a sketch of what’s to come than an actual blueprint.” Companies that have staked their fortunes on autonomous driving are scaling back their strategies. Uber has closed down its truck project and suspended testing of self-driving cars after “one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian.” The fact is, we haven’t been able to figure out “how to pull off a computer driver that can perform as well or better than a human under all conditions.” People in cars, on bikes and scooters, and on foot are unpredictable—and no matter how much data an AI program is fed, it’s hard to teach it to guess how they will act. And who’s to blame when a self-driving car gets into an accident? Uber’s and Lyft’s drivers won’t be forced out of their jobs soon. Over a lifetime of driving, humans become expert at anticipating how other humans will act. Machines aren’t there yet.