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Driverless Cars Tap the Brakes After Years of Hype

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Autonomous cars in the Aptiv Las Vegas Technical Center.

The hype that consumed the nascent driverless car industry over the past few years has moved into a new period of cautious optimism.

Credit: John F. Martin/Aptiv

After years of hype, autonomous vehicle developers are taking a more cautious approach following the deadly crash of an Uber Technologies test vehicle last year and separate crashes involving Tesla's driver-assistance system.

Said the Toyota Research Institute's Gill Pratt, the crashed "caused everyone to understand that there's not only a long way to go technologically, but from a social point of view there's liability and brand risk."

More recent discussions have focused mainly on robot-vehicle safety and scaled-back expectations of driverless-car deployment.

More immediate projects are decidedly low-key, including slow-moving robot shuttles and autos that travel confined, fixed routes with multiple safety operators on board.

Pratt thinks it will take decades for driverless cars to significantly replace human drivers on roads, and he expects low-speed automated shuttles and taxis will be the first widely deployed driverless technology.

From The Wall Street Journal
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