Talk with businesspeople and policy makers involved in mobility, and it becomes clear that self-driving cars are not a matter of if, but when. These vehicles will be front and center in a future where cars are connected, autonomous, shared, and electric—what advocates call CASE. Any one of those features would upend the auto industry, and they’re all coming at more or less the same time, perhaps as soon as the end of the decade.
Then again, we’ve been talking about self-driving, electric cars for a long time. What’s the hold up? “What’s been happening over the past couple of years has been the growing realization that this is actually a much more difficult problem than everybody thought,” says Sam Abuelsamid, a principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “The technology is simply not mature enough. It’s making progress, but it’s not as good as human drivers yet.”
And well before the Ubers and Lyfts of the world replace their controversial gig workers with artificial intelligence autonomous package-delivery vehicles will hit the roads, Abuelsamid predicts. That’s because package routes can stay on slow, calm thoroughfares and minimize challenging tasks such as left turns.