After years of hype, billions of dollars of investments and promises that people would be commuting to work in self-driving cars by now, the pursuit of autonomous cars is undergoing a reset.
Expectations are that tech and auto giants could still toil for years on their projects. Each will spend an additional $6 billion to $10 billion before the technology becomes commonplace — sometime around the end of the decade, according to estimates from Pitchbook, a research firm that tracks financial activity. But even that prediction might be overly optimistic, The New York Times’s Cade Metz reports.
So what went wrong? Some researchers would say nothing — that’s how science works. You can’t entirely predict what will happen in an experiment. The self-driving car project just happened to be one of the most hyped technology experiments of this century, occurring on streets all over the country and run by some of its most prominent companies.
Companies like Uber and Lyft, worried about blowing through their cash in pursuit of autonomous technology, have tapped out. Only the most deep pocketed outfits like Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet; auto industry giants; and a handful of start-ups are managing to stay in the game
Late last month, Lyft sold its autonomous vehicle unit to a Toyota subsidiary called Woven Planet in a deal valued at $550 million. Uber offloaded its autonomous vehicle unit to another competitor in December. And three prominent self-driving start-ups have sold themselves to companies with much bigger budgets over the past year.
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