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[Slashdot] - This Was Supposed to Be the Year Driverless Cars Went Mainstream

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Tech companies once promised that fully functional, self-driving cars would be on the road by 2020 and on the path to remaking transportation and transforming the economy. From a report: But a decade after Google unveiled an autonomous car prototype with global fanfare, the technology is still far from ready, and many investors are wary of dumping more money into it -- just when the world could benefit from cars that ferry people and deliver packages without a human driver. The companies that made these promises are now in a jam: To perfect their technology, they need to test it on roads. But they need at least two people in the cars to avoid accidents. Because of social distancing rules meant to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic, that is often not possible. So many cars are sitting in lots. "This is a difficult time for everyone," said Bryan Salesky, the chief executive of the start-up Argo AI, which is backed by $1 billion from Ford and another $1 billion in promised funding from Volkswagen. "We want to get back on the road as soon as it is safe to do so. There is no substitute for on-road testing." The timeout caused by the pandemic has hastened an industry shakeout that was already starting to happen. Many self-driving car companies have no revenue, and the operating costs are unusually high. Autonomous vehicle start-ups spend $1.6 million a month on average -- four times the rate at financial tech or health care companies, according to PitchBook, which tracks financial activity across the industry. It's a sharp turn from 2016, when an investment bubble in self-driving technology started.

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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