Aside from machine learning, autonomous vehicles were one of the most hyped technologies in 2016. This year, we saw major product announcements and technology demos from Uber, Lyft, Ford, GM, BMW, Tesla, Cruise, Comma.ai, and many other startups and corporations. Google went so far as to create an entirely new company, Waymo, devoted to their driverless car technology.
Nearly all of the major car manufacturers have announced they will be releasing autonomous vehicles in the next five years, and Lyft has stated that they are planning for the majority of rides to be autonomous within the next five years. Even President Obama said “The technology is essentially here” in a November WIRED interview.
However companies still need to solve basic problems related to sensors (e.g., see the Tesla Autopilot crash where cameras could not distinguish a white truck against bright sky), and billions of edge cases due to construction, pedestrians, and weather, and a murky regulatory environment.
We are huge believers in the long-term benefits of autonomous vehicles, but 2017 may be a year when autonomous vehicle companies and startups are heads-down solving tough problems rather than continuing to push out flashy tech demos.