While autonomous vehicle (AV) startups have raised tens of billions of dollars based on promises to develop truly self-driving cars, but industry executives and experts say remote human supervisors may be needed permanently to help robot drivers in trouble.
But apparently, robot cars that can drive more safely are proving harder than expected self-driving software systems simply lack humans’ ability to predict and assess risk quickly, especially when encountering unexpected incidents or “edge cases.”
Theinquirer.net (no relation) chatted to Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise, a unit of General Motors, who did not see a reason for humans to be removed from being a back up if needed. This is the first time Cruise has acknowledged the long-term need for remote human operators.
Other car makers refused to comment which is a little odd given that you would think if they thought any differently they would say so.
But GM has some experience having had to recall and update software in 80 Cruise self-driving vehicles this month after a June crash in San Francisco. U.S. safety regulators said the recalled software could “incorrectly predict” an oncoming vehicle’s path, and Cruise said the unusual scenario would not recur after the update.
But what this means is that human supervisors could be here to stay making any robot revolution look less likely.
In 2019, Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk promised a million robotaxis “next year for sure.” Like many of his technology promises it only happened in his head (if it happened anywhere at all) His company’s “Full Self Driving” offering has been slamed because its cars are not capable of driving themselves without a human behind the wheel and ready to take manual control in an emergency.
Earlier this year Musk said developing self-driving cars was “way harder than I originally thought, by far” presumably because you can't really design a car by talking to the media about it. He claimed Tesla could make it “this year” although his PR departments are not answering any questions on that.
Basically if these companies cannot come up with the goods in the next two or three years it is probably going to go the way of the "every home will have a flying car or a jet pack" fantasy we had growing up. But it is possible that the technology is not there yet and there are not enough reporters out there who are willing to call big corporate's bluff on it.