Automakers have already spent at least $16 billion developing self-driving technology, with the promise of someday creating fully autonomous vehicles.2 What has been the result? Although it seems that we have more promises than actual progress, some encouraging experiments are now under way, and there have been intermediate benefits in the form of driver-assist safety features.
Engineers started on this quest to automate driving several decades ago, when passenger vehicles first began deploying cameras, radar, and limited software controls. In the 1990s, automakers introduced radar-based adaptive cruise control and dynamic traction control for braking. In the 2000s, they introduced lane-departure warning and driver-assist parking technology. Since 2017, Waymo, Uber, Daimler, the U.S. Postal Service, and several other automakers all have launched experiments with robo-taxis or robo-trucks, targeting Level 4 Autonomy (see the sidebar on the last page of this column).4,13 If and when this technology will make its way into your average passenger vehicle is uncertain, but there is no doubt that companies have been moving closer toward their goal.
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