In the spring, Uber and Lyft are launching a new wave of IPOs from gig economy companies that reorganize the physical world as well as the digital world. Over the next few weeks, The Ringer will investigate the impact these companies have on how we travel, live and define the concept of a modern age job.
For Elon Musk Driverless car is always just around the corner. At an investor day event this month focused on Tesla's autonomous vehicle technology, the CEO predicted that the company would have a million cars on the road next year with self-propelled hardware "at a level of reliability that we would consider no-one needs to pay attention." That means Level 5 Autonomy, by Society for Automotive Engineers, or a vehicle that can travel on any road at any time without human intervention. There is a level of technological progress I once compared to Batmobile.
Musk has made such demands before. In 201
Earlier, Musk & His deep predictions have been met with A-for-strenuous enthusiasm and a smattering of polite skepticism, but the answer this time has been different. People have less patience for promotional campaigns that mask as technical timelines. "It's scary," says Sam Abuelsamid, a research analyst for Navigant, a consulting firm that ranks the companies about the viability of their autonomous car plans. "At best, they might create a system that works under certain limited scenarios. It will not be completely independent in 2020 or anytime in the next few years. "
What has changed? Self-powered cars – and associated building blocks such as machine learning, data vision and LIDAR – continue to improve, but others than Musk have admitted that reports of their impending distribution were greatly exaggerated. Ford CEO Jim Hackett said last month that industry had "overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles." Chris Urmson, the former head of Google's auto-automotive project, once hoped that his son would not need a driver's license because the driver would drive a car be so abundant by 2020. Now the CEO is self-governing Aurora , Urmson, that driverless cars will slowly integrate on our roads "over the next 30 to 50 years." It's almost as long as computers evolved from IBM's first mainframe to Apple's first iPhone.
Despite the setbacks continues to increase money for autonomous vehicle research Companies from several industries involved have a lot to gain as long as the dream of self-driving Staying out of reach For the technological giants, the premier car can be the big picture that ultimately pays off after a decade focusing on consolidation rather than innovation. For Detroit car manufacturers, technology is a safeguard against the disturbances in Silicon Valley. For Uber and Lyft, it is the silver bullet that will make money-losing companies profitable on an unspecified future date. This type of pink forecasting has led to breathless headlines and massive inflows of investment dollars. Ford only refuses a $ 1.7 billion investment in Volkswagen's vans. Uber's carless car department was recently valued at $ 725 billion. And Waymo, the Alphabet's self-propelled development subsidiary, is seeking external investment that can value the company on "several times" General Motors' autonomous division, which is worth $ 15 billion.
Nevertheless, the exact business models these companies use on driver cars will remain scary. Moreover, this lack of clarity comes partly from design; for now there is more money to make on the idea of drivers without a car than on the vehicles themselves. "I don't think that's all PR, but I think it's a bit desirable," said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner who specializes in autonomous vehicles. "When you have platforms that have been disruptive to use and change the dynamics of how people use mobility, but no clear path to profitability, there's a desire to look for technology to help solve it."
All of these companies, from Detroit to Silicon Valley, pitching a similar driverless utopia: Instead of owning cars, people will be known through urban streets of autonomous vehicles that can operate 24 hours a day, reducing vehicle death and traffic load in the process . When Google originally introduced the driverless car as a practical research effort in 2010, the company suggested that it could save as many as 600,000 lives per year and double the capacity of roads. And even though Tesla wants to sell autonomous vehicles to individual consumers, most companies have determined that mounting an army of centrally controlled robot taxi provides more economic sense. A business fleet can be limited to carefully mapped areas, and the expensive cameras and sensors needed to service the cars can be paid with recurring revenue from shared rides.
This Utopia Exists However, not because there are a number of technical and legal barriers that autonomous vehicles still fail to overcome. The basic challenge of car drivers without a car being able to accurately experience the world around them has not been solved. GM's vehicle continues to have trouble separating moving objects from desktops, according to a report from Reuters October 2018. Beyond that, the AI brain of these cars must make split second decisions based on an ever-changing environment. In view of the risks involved, engineers have programmed some driverless cars to be overly cautious, stalling for unforeseen obstacles such as construction sites or braking as a teenager's driver release. Finally, the Congress's lack of passing a federal law regulating autonomous vehicles late last year makes a widespread deployment of technology impractical, even though kinks are being drafted. "You have more due to the expectation of the timeline of these technologies, coupled with the lack of industry legislation," says Bryant Walker Smith, a lawyer professor at the University of South Carolina who studies autonomous vehicle legislation. "Many companies do not yet know what they want."
Especially for Uber and Lyft, the driverless car is easier to handle as a fair technological myth rather than an actual product. Both companies are poorly profitable and have long supported autonomous vehicles as the next key to both revolutionizing mobility and gaining wealth. Back in August 2016, former Uber director Travis Kalanick said the implementation of autonomous vehicles on the platform was "one year's case, not ten years". Uber's acquisition of $ 680 million self-propelled trucks, Otto took the company in a vicious legal battle with Google over alleged stolen LIDAR technology. In March 2018, one of Uber's driverless cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, and asked the state to immediately ban Uber's test vehicle. Surveys in the incident by New York Times and Business Insider showed that Uber's autonomous vehicles at that time required human intervention more often than their target every 13 miles and had their ability to suddenly brake deactivated to provide a smoother riding experience. Prioritizing security over ambitious launch targets could have prevented the deadly collision.
Uber, who said the vehicle's brakes were disabled to prevent erratic driving, was charged without crime in the Arizona crash and reached an unknown settlement with the victim's family. The company's AI leaders, since chastened, will now just say that deploying large-scale driverless cars will take "a long time." "There is pressure when you have an exciting technology to put an effort into the ground and say we will be made by this point," says Ramsey. "When you come into reality and you have to make a decision to release a technology there Literally, if people do not succeed, the standard is to be made a little tricky. "Lyft's self-drive foray has not been nearly as catastrophic, but the company has similar expectations. In 2016, Lift President John Zimmer told the majority of the lifting rides would be autonomous by 2021. So far, only 40,000 rides have been driving cars as part of an ongoing Las Vegas trial, a total of a fraction of the more than half a billion rides it provides annually. announced a partnership with Waymo that will bring a limited number of driverless cars to the Lift platform in Phoenix, these rides will still have a human driver sitting like a fail-safe in the seat, rat as it is during the Las Vegas trial. In its IPO submission, Lyft was subjected to majority autonomous rides by 2029.
In addition to the changing timelines, it also remains a question of what drivers without a car would achieve, financially and socially, if or when they let go of the world. Autonomous vehicles would theoretically allow Uber and Lyft to reduce costs by eliminating drivers and rapidly upgrading operations. But reaping the full benefits of autonomous vehicles would require the giant giants to own and maintain their own vehicles, a huge new expense that would represent a whole new business model.
The alternative option, which Lyft pursues with the Waymo partnership, is to act as a platform for other companies that drive the cars. But it may end up just replacing the expense of a human driver with the cost of a robot. Aurora, the AI startup bills itself as the brain of the vehicle, plans to get paid per kilometer, just as human drivers do today. Businesses "will be compensated for buying and operating the autonomous vehicles," says Ramsey. "So I don't really see how autonomous vehicles actually change the business model of what they do so much."
Lift's Zimmer also said that the rise of driverless cars would "all but end" private vehicle ownership in major cities by 2025. But Lyft and Uber's earlier promises to help eliminate city congestion have proven false, according to a number of studies. In fact, the world where they and other companies have implemented standard scale autopilot rafts, overload can actually increase, as individual riders will likely continue to choose single-trip rides and the number of cars on the road may rise further if driverless food and parcel deliveries are cheaper than those
"It is the dystopian perception of what happens to automated cars," said Mark Hallenbeck, director of The Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, when techexecs in Seattle were floating the idea of driverless cars that replaced public transport. "It fits well with the view of how people interact with technology. We are not interested in the social good of anyone working together. We are interested in me."
Most people probably don't need to think about the societal effects of drivers without a car. Abuelamid predicts that the average person will not be able to call a car without a driver in the United States until late 2020, and companies' increasingly sketchy timelines seem to support this requirement. It can make time for public regulation to capture the effects that Uber and Lyft already have on cities before a number of similar driverless services are solved. And the pressure to be safe seems to have darkened the pressure to be first, a positive development for potential customers of these driverless services.
But the whole experiment has the feeling of a high-stake game, where everyone is gone and no one is sure of the exact payout. "Everyone in the industry is getting more and more nervous about wasting billions of dollars," said Klaus Froehlich, director of BMW and research and development manager, to Reuters last year.
In its first quarterly earnings with investors, Lyft has explored its $ 108 million in research and development spending as a key to its "autonomous future". That future seemed once around the buoy; Now, the clock has been effectively reset for companies that have already spent a decade finding a viable business model while being run by venture capital. Once upon a time, this had heard the alarm bells in the investors. But companies like Netflix and Amazon have recently shown that companies can ride a money market plan for market dominance, as long as the idea is convincing enough. And as prominent directors continue to repeat, the driverless car is the "technical challenge to our generation." If Silicon Valley has established something in the last decade, it is a bold promise, not merit, the true path to success in the modern economy.