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Why Self-Driving Cars Could be Going the Way of the Jetpack

By New Scientist

July 29, 2021

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As revolutions go, this one has been rather lacking in revs. For the past decade or so, there have been confident predictions that gas-guzzling cars driven by accident-prone humans would soon be on the slip road to oblivion. The future of mobility was to be all-electric – and all-autonomous.

Electric cars are already on the move, although we must go much further and faster if we are to meet climate goals. Meanwhile, however, the "autonomous" bit seems to be stuttering, to say the least.

To be sure, some of the latest commercially available cars come with ever more computing smarts, such as adaptive cruise control, which allows for occasional hands-free use in very specific road conditions. But beyond a few small-scale tests of truly autonomous vehicles, drivers must keep their eyes and minds on the road at all times. A future where the average motorist can sit back, relax, even take a nap and let the car's computer get them all the way from home to work and back, say, seems barely on the horizon.

Some observers are now openly saying the dream of full autonomy is a mirage: creating robot vehicles able to tackle any kind of road or traffic situation is just too tough a nut to crack. Are they right? And if so, what exactly is keeping down the self-driving car?

From New Scientist
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