Starsky Robotics is shutting down, ending whatever prospects it had at becoming the world’s premier self-driving company for long-haul trucking. The business has hit a snag with funding, with CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher announcing the fundraising it scheduled for November worked out rather badly.
Lacking capital was what ultimately killed Starsky Robotics, though Seltz-Axmacher claims the issue is quite a bit more complicated than that. Despite making significant progress with his own company, he now feels Starsky and the rest of the world has been incredibly naive in how it handled autonomous vehicles. He also believes there’s something deeply wrong with the burgeoning AV industry — it’s becoming bloated, progress has been slower than promised, investors don’t understand anything about the technology, and artificial intelligence is deeply flawed.
BMW’s past promises include a pledge to help keep drivers driving in the brave new world of autonomous vehicles. However, it hasn’t entirely sworn off self-driving technology. The company finds itself in a tricky spot, as it’s seen as both a luxury automaker and a performance brand. But it can’t claim to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine” if it doesn’t allow customers to drive.
Automakers and tech firms pushed relentlessly for autonomous driving, making claims that a self-driving nirvana was just around the corner. But current technology proved less than perfect in practice and modern autonomous vehicles require constant human involvement to operate safely, just like any normal car. Despite making strides, the industry seems torn on how to appease everyone.
The government is even more in the dark. While lawmakers initially agreed with industry rhetoric (that autonomy will save lives and usher in a new era of mobility), recent events sparked skepticism. There aren’t many new regulations appearing in the United States, but there also isn’t any clear legislation to help decide who’s held liable when the cars malfunction. A lot of what if questions remain unanswered.
BMW thinks this will be the main reason why autonomous cars fail.
Everyone in the automotive industry is talking about a grand shift toward mobility, resulting in a future where nobody owns cars and we all putt around in autonomous pods. Well, almost everyone. Carlos Ghosn, who currently chairs the alliance between Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi, thinks that’s a crock.
While there’s plenty of executives keeping quiet on the evolution of ownership, few have come forward suggest business as usual will be the new status quo. Meanwhile, swaths of industry experts are pushing the notion that rental services, ride-sharing, and firms like Uber or Lyft will eventually replace the need for dealerships and garages.
Technology companies need to stop attempting to build cars. This is all getting too convoluted.
Despite working at it longer than anyone else, Google appeared to be pulling out of the race to be the first tech company to produce an autonomous electric vehicle — a familiar fate for those who foray into the automotive world without a surfeit of experience. Apple’s Project Titan suffered a similar fate after multiple postponements to the vehicle’s intended release, strategy disagreements, large-scale layoffs, and the loss of key leadership assigned to the self-driving vehicle’s development.
Building a car is a serious undertaking, so it isn’t surprising that Google had to throw in the towel. The only problem is that, after quitting, Google announced that it was more committed to the goal of producing an autonomous vehicle than ever before.
“The future vision of car intelligence and electrification.”
That was the entire press release provided by Nissan along with the above photo. That’s it. That’s all.
So, let the wild speculation begin. Is this the next-generation Nissan Leaf? Or is it a life orb that will ship us off to fight to the death in some futuristic panopticon? Who knows?!?! It could be at least one of those things.
We (well, some of us) await the autonomous auto that leaves the driving to a robot, such as not to distract us from twittering and uploading pictures of our cats to our facebookies. That technology is not quite there yet. Volkswagen however thinks “an important milestone on the path towards fully automatic and accident-free driving” has been set. So said Volkswagen’s Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold at the final presentation of the EU research project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport – who comes up with that stuff?)