Crowds of techies will descend on Las Vegas this week for the annual CES technology mega-show, but one innovation may again fall short of long-held hopes: driverless cars.
Autonomous vehicles have long been pitched as the new dawn of transportation and the world’s biggest tech companies have poured billions of dollars into being ready.
Despite steady advances, however, robo-travel has yet to take over the open roads, with even Elon Musk’s best-selling Teslas requiring “a fully attentive driver”, despite the billionaire’s assurances his cars will soon be autonomous.
Waymo, a subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, has been offering driverless rides to the general public in Phoenix, Arizona, since 2020, but on very defined roads. Cruise, a unit of General Motors, in June was the first to get approval to carry paying passengers in robo-taxis in San Francisco, a hilly city with more complicated traffic patterns, but initially only at night and within a limited zone.
In Las Vegas - where close to 100,000 convention goers were expected for the CES expo - unmanned Ubers began hitting the streets last month in a venture with the company Motional, but always with a human on board, just in case.
“Any company that removes its safety drivers, that is a big deal,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor who specializes in autonomous vehicles at the University of South Carolina.
Several incidents with Cruise’s vehicles have been reported and the US road safety agency (NHTSA) has opened...
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