Driverless cars have been just around the corner for nearly a decade.
Yet after ambitious promises by CEOs of automakers and startups and buy-in from investors to the tune of more than $200 billion, there is not yet one fully autonomous vehicle on public roads in the U.S. today. And it isn't even all that close.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley said as much recently when the automaker pulled the plug on Argo AI, a once-promising startup on which it bet $1 billion five years ago, when then-Ford CEO Mark Fields predicted driverless cars would be widespread by now.
"Profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off," Farley told investors.
While not necessarily surprising, Argo's unwinding has had a chilling effect on the AV tech sector and thrust the future of fully autonomous driving further into uncertainty. But that does not mean AV work has stalled, said Reuben Sarkar, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility near Ypsilanti, the state's public-private nerve center for AV testing.
"In the venture community, you might see an autonomous winter where one decision not to invest in Argo leads to other companies being more skeptical," Sarkar said. "But in almost every innovation cycle I've seen, you have a flurry of new companies, you have lots of new activity out there, and eventually there's a consolidation."