GM’s Crashing Taxi
Other than electric vehicles (EVs), the next big thing on its way to revolutionizing the car industry is what is known as autonomous vehicles (AVs). If they work, drivers can sit back, read, sleep or have a cocktail. The trouble is that the early versions of these keep crashing. This threatens their passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and property. (These are the world’s most innovative car companies.)
Most of the crashes of AVs have had benign effects. A dented bumper here and there is nothing compared to fatalities. However, regulators have taken serious harm and damage into consideration. GM’s autonomous vehicle operation, called Cruise, had robotaxies operating in San Francisco. One hit a firetruck and injured a passenger in the Cruise vehicle. GM has been ordered to chop its fleet of these cars in half, a blow to the huge American car company’s aspirations.
The San Francisco Department of Motor Vehicles wants what it calls “corrective action.” According to Bloomberg, one flaw of autonomous cars is that they have trouble detecting emergency vehicles. It is hard to imagine a bigger problem, beyond the vehicles not working entirely.
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And Americans may shy away from these vehicles for exactly that reason. People are used to driving cars, which allows them to have their fortunes and safety in their own hands, although there are tens of thousands of serious car wrecks each year.
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The challenge of adopting driverless cars is a cousin to the resistance to EVs. EVs take a long time to charge compared to gasoline-powered cars. Plus, they have limited ranges between “fill-ups.” Americans may be driving “legacy cars,” but at least they have been driving vehicles similar to those on the country’s roads for decades. People want to risk creating their crashes.
An autonomous car crash raises the specter of more and more of these. Better skip reading and the chance to sleep.
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