Apple Co-founder Claims Autonomous Cars Aren't Happening

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
apple co founder claims autonomous cars arent happening

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has officially given up on autonomous vehicles, despite previously being a major proponent of their advancement. “I stepped way back [on] this idea of Level 5. I’ve really given up,” Wozniak at last week’s J.D. Power Auto Revolution conference in Las Vegas. “I don’t even know if that will happen in my lifetime.”

Automotive News reported the quote on Monday, noting that Steve’s tune has changed dramatically from the days where he optimistically saw Apple blazing the trail for advanced driving technologies — something that requires one to venture several years into the past. He’s been harder on the systems more recently, openly expressing his growing doubts since 2017.

“What we’ve done is we’ve misled the public into thinking this car is going to be like a human brain to be able to really figure out new things and say, ‘Here’s something I hadn’t seen before, but I know what’s going on here, and here’s how I should handle it,'” Wozniak explained. “A human can do that.”

While brutal, that’s a rather fair assessment of the industry up until recently. Automakers have spent years aggressively promoting autonomous driving technologies, with several promising Level 5 would be available before 2021. Granted, some of the new driver assistance features are rather impressive. But they’re frequently undone by a little roadway grime making its way onto the sensors, some inclement weather, or a little roadwork.

Meanwhile, companies on the cutting edge of self-driving claim they need more testing in various climates before vehicles can be rolled out for commercial use. Personal AVs are even further out, with many worried they’ll never come.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik is probably heading the company that’s the closest to having a reliable self-driving vehicle right now. But even he has reservations. In 2018, Krafcik said he believed vehicular autonomy will always have “some constraints.”

We’ve seen that happening already. The most successful AVs have been those operating on closed loops or off road (airport shuttles, campus busses, tractors, etc.). Those are likely only a few years away, with autonomous farming/industrial equipment already in operation. Robotic taxis probably won’t manifest until much later but have a legitimate chance, since cars can be isolated to a specific urban environment that can be habitually re-mapped. But they may still have to take days off, depending on the weather, until the systems are truly bulletproof.

Long-haul trucking also might be swallowed up by autonomy in a few years. However, many believe the vehicles will still need a human driver for insurance purposes and to help the vehicle navigate off the highway. That could help delay the presumed slaughter of millions of trucking jobs over the next decade. But passenger vehicles still a giant question mark and are likely to remain so until someone has cracked the full-time-autonomy nut and creates SAE Level 5.

Wozniak said this wouldn’t be such a big problem if motoring were more predictable. “[It would be easier] if we were to modify roads and have certain sections that are well mapped and kept clean of refuse, and nothing unusual happens and there’s no road work,” he said.

Sounds impossible, but it’s just one man’s opinion. And he dated Kathy Griffin, so it’s not like his judgement is perfect.

[Image: Viappy/Shutterstock]

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  • Roverv8i Roverv8i on Oct 30, 2019

    I think Steve is mostly on the right track with his thinking. If we were willing to invest in new infrastructure then we would not need level 5. Instead more of virtual track that the car can follow and know where every other vehicle around them is. You might even be able to still allow lesser cars as long as they broadcast certain data and the driver has been licensed for this specifically. Instead we are expecting a vehicle to navigate the current infrastructure coexisting with humans. My thought on this is that if we achieve such a thing then we are very close to being able to have other types of robots and even rudimentary androids. I think people are stuck on the idea of self driving cars and don't really consider that this is just a special purpose highly advance robot. If we have level 5 cars then I expect we should be close to having a Rosie (the Jettsons robot) too

  • Polka King Polka King on Nov 03, 2019

    Hey Apple. You want to do the world a favor? Do something about traffic light systems. If they can put a man on the moon surely they can make it so there are lines of cars waiting for nothing much less frequently. Of course this would involve cameras and scary software and monitoring people, which would be right up Google's alley.

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