Waymo CEO: Truly Driverless Cars Will Never Exist
If your job depends on taking to the wheel there may be some good news; driverless cars are apparently impossible. According to who, you ask? None other than the CEO of driverless car company Waymo. Here’s what he had to say…
The Limits Of The Technology
John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, told Wall Street Journal’s D. Live conference that the vehicles would never be entirely rid of the need for human input. He said, “autonomy will always have constraints” and that developing autonomous vehicle technology was “really, really hard.” He cited the difficulty the vehicles have in different weather conditions and on different terrains; both of which can interfere with cameras and sensors. He went on to stress that we’re decades away from seeing any significant amount of autonomous vehicles on our road and that they’d still require forms of “user interaction.”
Waymo, which used to be a subsidiary of Google, was founded in 2009. It took the company around seven years to get its ‘driverless’ cars out onto the roads of America and a further three to get them running on ‘autonomous mode.’ So far, its fleet of autonomous vehicles has clocked up around ten million miles in and around 25 American cities. It must have some confidence in the technology at this stage, however, as it’s starting to launch a paid taxi service called Waymo One. It’ll work in conjunction with an app that’ll allow users to summon an autonomous vehicle and pay via credit or debit card. As it stands, the vehicles are still monitored by human drivers who sit behind the wheel in case they need to intervene.
Back To Earth
It’s sobering for a company to admit to the limitations of its products or services, even more so in the field of ‘driverless’ cars. Most manufacturers developing the technology have pursued it in an almost frenzied fashion, as though it were the holy grail of all things automotive. The fact of the matter is that getting a car to behave as safely as a human driver is a challenge. But this isn’t enough. No one will buy an expensive and novel product when it’s only as good as the status-quo. They’ll need to outperform human drivers in order to attract consumers. This means they need to be more reliable, safer and offer a more pleasant experience. Curiously enough, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has stated that driverless cars will be on Britain’s roads by 2021. He may well be right, but you’ll probably be able to count them on your fingers and bet on them being supervised by people made of flesh and blood…