SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — The World Safety Summit on Autonomous Technology kicked off at Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday. The autonomous vehicle industry is learning the path to the future will be taken with baby steps.
For example, a street sweeper that is the first of its kind in the world was highlighted at the event. There are only about 200 of them operating in China right now.
There was also a self-driving agricultural sprayer, one of only a dozens in the U.S.
Progress on autonomous vehicles has been slow, steady and a lot more complicated than anyone thought. Google has been testing self driving cars now for the past 10 years. Back in 2015, the head of Google’s AV program said during a TED Talk that his team was determined to get self driving cars on the road by 2019 or 2020.
During test rides at the summit Monday in Santa Clara, we also got a reality check.
Dataspeed makes software for self driving cars, and Jeff Blackburn says a wide roll out will happen first in warmer, southern cities first, where there is no snow. It will likely be just a taxi service in five years.
“I think there was a huge amount of optimism,” Blackburn said. “I think most of the companies have pulled back a bit and they understand this is a much more difficult problem than they thought it would be.”
“I think people learned that going fast was really challenging,” said Anand Gopalan, Chief Technology Officer for San Jose-based Velodyne Lidar–the company hosted the event.
Gopalan said the industry was overconfident in its early days.
“I think now that’s been tempered by reality, where people realize if you’re driving really fast, you have to make some very challenging decisions very quickly. So you are now seeing start with more modest expectations, where they want to make this technology work at 30, 35, 40 MPH, and then tackle the problem of speed.”
During Karen Collazo’s first ride in a self driving vehicle, it was exactly how she imagined it. Most of the ride was fine, but there was one moment where the car just stopped abruptly on the test track.
The glitch did not shake Collazo’s confidence in what is still very much new and developing technology.