Two major players vowing to transform the automotive industry with self-driving cars backpedaled on expectations this week. Both Ford and ride-sharing company Uber tempered expectations for when autonomous cars will arrive and what they'll be capable of when they do.
Uber's chief scientist at its Advanced Technologies Group, Raquel Urtasun, cast some doubt on the speed at which self-driving cars will hit the road.
"Self-driving cars are going to be in our lives. The question of when is not clear yet," she said, Reuters reported Monday. The ride-sharing firm's self-driving car development head estimated that over the next decade we'll see a slow mix of self-driving cars and human drivers on the road. It's more than likely such vehicles will be part of ride-sharing and mobility fleets—not for personal ownership.
When Ford CEO Jim Hackett spoke at the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported, he said the company "overestimated" the timeframe for when self-driving cars would be ready to tackle public roads and said that its efforts will likely be in geofenced areas for the near future. Hackett called autonomous cars a "complex problem," but reaffirmed Ford will have its first self-driving car ready in 2021.
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The comments from Ford and Uber come after years of booming hype from many companies eager to deploy a self-driving car first. In the sprint to the bottom, Uber became the first company responsible for the death of a human in a self-driving car test. In March 2018, an autonomous Uber prototype struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.
So far, Google's Waymo and General Motors' Cruise Automation have remained optimistic and full-speed ahead. Waymo launched a private ride-sharing service in December for limited riders and GM plans to commercialize self-driving cars sometime this year.