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The distant, but inevitable future of autonomous vehicles

Leonardo Yorka for Quartz
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate reporter

Published Last updated on

We were promised self-driving cars, but what we got were delays. In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised drivers a car that could drive “hands-free” from New York to Los Angeles within a year. That same year, Carlos Ghosn, the former executive leading Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi Motors, promised self-driving cars by the end of the decade. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer predicted most Lyft rides would be AVs as early as 2021 and private car ownership would be phased out of major US cities. Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields told CNBC in 2017 that self-driving vehicles with “no gas pedal, no steering wheel, and the passenger will never need to take control of the vehicle in a predefined area” would hit the streets by 2021.

In 2019, it’s clear that none of this is happening on schedule.

Autonomy, alongside electrification, promises to be one of the most profound changes to human mobility since the advent of the automobile. Legacy automakers are racing to transform themselves from metal benders to suppliers of mobility “services” as the world begins to shift away from personal car ownership. Silicon Valley companies are trying to replace the incumbent automakers by developing the technology faster than rivals in Detroit.   

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