Self-Driving Vehicles Are Shifting From Costly Experiments To Viable Businesses
…. And it only took decades and billions in investments. 2023 is turning out to be a big year for self-driving vehicles as they slowly move from an expensive science experiment to a viable business.
Last week, California voted to expand driverless car operations in San Francisco — allowing companies to charge passengers for rides anytime and anywhere. While before…
- Rides were limited in certain areas and only to people with access — with hundreds of thousands on waiting lists.
- In SF, self-driving vehicle operators could only charge in certain parts of the city.
Now, General Motors’ Cruise (NYSE:GM) and Alphabet’s Waymo (NASDAQ:GOOG) will ramp up their current operations of a few hundred vehicles to compete against the 10K+ ride-hailing drivers — with Waymo setting a goal to grow its ~10K trips per week by 10x next summer.
Long road to
nowhere self-driving vehicles
For decades, giants like General Motors, Alphabet, Uber and Tesla have all raced to turn the technology into a reality. And whoever makes it to the finish line first would reap the fortunes of a $220B market and bragging rights to disrupting transportation.
But getting there hasn’t been easy — with casualties like Ford-backed Argo AI shutting down last year and Uber selling its self-driving unit. Despite all the setbacks, two companies have made major expansions this year.
Waymo and Cruise are ramping up operations in Phoenix, Austin, SF and parts of LA. Notably, this has drawn heavy backlash in SF — known for being the guinea pig for innovations like food delivery, ride-sharing and Airbnbs.
- Communities are criticizing companies over safety concerns and traffic disruptions, including blocking emergency vehicles, widening the economic gap and stealing jobs.
- Per Bloomberg, injury numbers from self-driving cars are 4x higher than the national human average — but the sample size is small, and data is from cities where accidents occur more frequently.
But actually reaching mass adoption will take many more years while issues still need to be resolved — including difficulty operating in poor weather conditions or preventing people from hooking up inside the cars.