Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How Soon Will Self-driving Cars Be Everywhere?

 

As part of an excellent presentation and recent podcast, analyst Frank Chen of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz takes a crack at answering the question above. First, this from an audio presentation with slide deck, “16 questions about self-driving cars”:

So when will this beautiful world happen? … NuTonomy says 2018 they’re live in Singapore, top ten cities by 2020. Delphi and Mobileye say they’ll have self-driving systems available to the car manufacturers by 2019. … 2020 GM says that’s when it will have its cars. Ford says 2021 they’ll have Level 5 cars available to fleet makers. BMW ships the iNEXT in 2021. Tesla who’s arguably out ahead of this right now says 2023. Uber says that its entire fleet will be autonomous by 2030. And IEEE says that by 2040, 40% of all care on the road are autonomous. So you see quite a range of predictions on when this glorious future happens, and then once it starts we don’t know what the demand curve will be…. But look, it’s going to happen in our lifetime, which is probably not something I would have predicted ten years ago.

As to that last point: How fast will driverless cars spread once they are first on the road? Here on the podcast is Chen, Carl Pope (former executive director and chairman of the Sierra Club and author — with former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg — of the upcoming book Climate of Hope: How Cities Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet), and a16z’s Sonal Chokshi:

Sonal Chokshi: How fast do you guys think that will happen? What’s the rough timeline?

Frank Chen: Well, if you look at public estimates given by the auto manufacturers. I’m talking about incumbents now. You’ll see a range, anywhere from 2019 to 2024 being the year where they first introduce their autonomous vehicle. It might happen even earlier for fleet sales. The most aggressive auto manufacturers are saying 2019 is when this revolution starts and then we have a question of what’s the adoption curve. Will it be S-shaped like it was for the iPhones? Will it be straight up to the right because it’s just so awesome? And obviously that has implications of which companies are going to win, but it’s going to start soon.

Carl Pope: I think one of the things that’s important is if we go to shared vehicles … every shared vehicle replaces roughly eight other vehicles. Even today, with today’s technology and today’s ownership patterns, if you only have an eighth as many cars on the road but people are still driving as much, more or less, that means every car drives eight times as far a year. Now we turn over the automobile fleet every thirteen years and most of the projections people are making about how fast this happens assumes that thirteen-year turnover rate. … If you only have an eighth as many cars and they’re driven eight times as far and they’re retired, let’s say, five times as quickly, the whole automotive fleet is turned over in three years. So it might start a little later than the optimists think, might start in 2022, but it might be over by 2025.

Chockshi: Why might it be over?

Pope: Because in three years the whole fleet might have rolled over and once you start selling autonomous cars in large numbers people will not buy cars that have to be driven. Being able to drive your own car is going to become a very expensive option.

Hopefully I correctly matched all the voices to the right person. If you have an interest in the subject, I urge you to listen to the entire episode. And you might want to also check out this congressional hearing from today on driverless car regulation.

There are 63 comments.

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  1. Ekosj Inactive

    Why is it that everyone assumes I want a self-driving car? I most certainly do not. I LIKE to drive. I take pleasure in it and don’t want to surrender that activity to a computer. Luddite? Maybe. But I don’t care.

    • #1
    • February 14, 2017, at 3:23 PM PST
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  2. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wow, pretty exciting for a 70 year old guy. The day a senior has to turn over his keys may soon be non existent.

    • #2
    • February 14, 2017, at 3:23 PM PST
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  3. Ekosj Inactive

    cdor (View Comment):
    Wow, pretty exciting for a 70 year old guy. The day a senior has to turn over his keys may soon be non existent.

    No no no! They’ll take our keys and worse. The car will email our doctors, insurance company, wife and children that the only destinations we have programmed in are the liquor store, the tobacconist, a steak house and a strip club … Then it’ll be curtains!

    • #3
    • February 14, 2017, at 3:44 PM PST
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  4. Rick Harlan Inactive

    About 26:10, he asks “when will it be illegal for humans to drive?” The premise being that autonomous cars will be so much safer than human drivers that driving would simply be reckless.

    It seems we haven’t learned to remove human regulators from the economy, even though markets have had their own kind of deep learning since the dawn of barter (for that matter computers wouldn’t be able to efficiently “drive” a modern economy).

    • #4
    • February 14, 2017, at 3:57 PM PST
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    Rick Harlan (View Comment):
    About 26:10, he asks “when will it be illegal for humans to drive?” The premise being that autonomous cars will be so much safer than human drivers that driving would simply be reckless.

    It seems we haven’t learned to remove human regulators from the economy, even though markets have had their own kind of deep learning since the dawn of barter (for that matter computers wouldn’t be able to efficiently “drive” a modern economy).

    All the answers to these questions become nearly self-apparent the moment this question gets a clear answer:

    At what point will Moore’s Law intersect or run headlong into the Law of Diminishing Returns?

    I once asked this question in another of James’s posts, but the responses were…inconclusive. We do have some clues, however: Apple seems to have…issues with its Project Titan (which is supposedly its autonomous car version). Google is compelled to work with Fiat Chrysler for engineering and logistics on its version of the autonomous vehicle.

    And Elon Musk is starting to get loopy again.

    • #5
    • February 14, 2017, at 4:22 PM PST
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  6. Pelicano Inactive

    For me, they better be available by 2030. That’s when my oldest turns 16. I don’t want her to have to learn how to drive. By which I mean: I’m not sure I can take teaching my baby to drive!

    • #6
    • February 14, 2017, at 4:53 PM PST
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  7. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m a skeptic for reasons I’ve laid out elsewhere, mainly related to the very complex engineering problems remaining to be solved that are currently being either handwaved, ignored, or are yet undiscovered.

    • #7
    • February 14, 2017, at 5:59 PM PST
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  8. Eb Snider Inactive

    Major laws, especially tort, will need to be changed. Or specific laws made for driverless cars. It’s a legal issue, not just technical.

    @James Pethokoukis, On a side note I just want to say props on especially of the podcast you did on Ep 47 Silicon Valley culture with a guest and Ep 65 on Californiastan.

    • #8
    • February 14, 2017, at 7:28 PM PST
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  9. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I can see maybe fully autonomous self-driving cars on limited access highways away from urban areas within a few years.

    On regular city streets? I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime. And I’m not that old (54).

    • #9
    • February 14, 2017, at 8:08 PM PST
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  10. Reckless Endangerment Member

    Fascinated by the prospect of driverless cars but definitely think there are some enormous legal and ethical considerations that must be flexible to the technology in its infancy.

    • #10
    • February 14, 2017, at 9:55 PM PST
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  11. Hammer, The Member

    I hate the idea of driverless cars, and I’m only 35. I hope it never works out.

    • #11
    • February 14, 2017, at 10:10 PM PST
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  12. Viator Inactive
    Viator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nonsense. The fantasy of self driving cars and trucks marches on. Think about your computer, cell phone, appliances, tablet, and your automobile. How often do they work as expected? 100%, no obviously. Maybe all together 95% of the time? How often do you you reboot, reinstall, repair, replace, throw out troublesome gadgets? Do all the sensors work in your used car? Does the check engine light come on?

    All of the above are inconvenient or a little worse. In a self driving vehicle it could be fatal.

    Ever tried to drive across upstate New York (or any other northern tier state) in the dark in a blinding blowing snow storm with black ice under the snow, the road completely obscured except for telephone poles paralleling the road?

    It might be possible to embed sensors along the roadways that could interact with vehicles but most states can’t build, repair, and replace the roads they have now.

    The whole scheme is full of holes from the impractical aspect, to the cost, to the reliability, to the long term maintenance burden, to the liability for all the failures and subsequent injuries and deaths.

    • #12
    • February 15, 2017, at 3:02 AM PST
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  13. Mike H Coolidge

    Mark Wilson (View Comment):
    I’m a skeptic for reasons I’ve laid out elsewhere, mainly related to the very complex engineering problems remaining to be solved that are currently being either handwaved, ignored, or are yet undiscovered.

    Yes, the whole AI inevitabilism reeks of over-optimistic folly.

    “The incredible problems of creating really good AI will disappear once we have really good AI!”

    • #13
    • February 15, 2017, at 5:02 AM PST
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  14. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    Why is it that everyone assumes I want a self-driving car? I most certainly do not. I LIKE to drive. I take pleasure in it and don’t want to surrender that activity to a computer. Luddite? Maybe. But I don’t care.

    People liked riding horse too. They still do, they just pay plenty for that privilege. While driving is fun the idea of being able to negate the massive up front costs and upkeep costs of a car while not losing continuous access to one is amazing.

    • #14
    • February 15, 2017, at 5:43 AM PST
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  15. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ryan M(cPherson) (View Comment):
    I hate the idea of driverless cars, and I’m only 35. I hope it never works out.

    What! That is terrible. Driverless cars open up the possibility for high quality vehicles to be available to all. They could increase comfort, decrease accidents, lower traffic congestion (imagine a world where half the cars are gone?) and there by speed up travel times, and ultimately save everyone plenty of money. We haven’t had a meaningful transportation innovation in over 60 years. I think the jet plane being the last one.

    • #15
    • February 15, 2017, at 5:47 AM PST
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  16. Ekosj Inactive

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    Why is it that everyone assumes I want a self-driving car? I most certainly do not. I LIKE to drive. I take pleasure in it and don’t want to surrender that activity to a computer. Luddite? Maybe. But I don’t care.

    People liked riding horse too. They still do, they just pay plenty for that privilege. While driving is fun the idea of being able to negate the massive up front costs and upkeep costs of a car while not losing continuous access to one is amazing.

    You can have that already. Lease. Or use Uber.

    • #16
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:03 AM PST
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  17. Matt Harris Member

    I am guessing that we will get 99% of the way there in 5-10 years. Then we will hit a big stall at that last 1%.

    • #17
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:05 AM PST
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  18. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    They could increase comfort, decrease accidents, lower traffic congestion (imagine a world where half the cars are gone?) and there by speed up travel times,

    Not sure the “lower traffic congestion” part is true.

    1: If transport becomes easier/cheaper/you can do other stuff while moving, then presumably people will do more of it.

    2: There are two possible models:

    a: You still own a personal car, but it drops you off and then goes away to park itself, comes back to pick you up. You now have empty cars running around, in addition to the ones with people in them. This is a net increase in traffic volume.

    b: People don’;t own personal cars, but use on-demand sharing of community cars. Now you have some number x of vehicles that have to be circulating and available even with nobody in them.

    For a variety of reasons, I think scenario a is more likely. People like having their own space, and the ability to leave personal belongings in their car – in particular people with kids. There’s a lot of paraphernalia that comes with traveling even short distances with children: Car seats, athletic or other equipment, entertainment devices, etc.

    • #18
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:15 AM PST
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  19. dittoheadadt Inactive

    See, not even the scenarios can drive a straight line.

    Thanks, but I’ll keep the wheel.

    • #19
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:18 AM PST
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  20. dittoheadadt Inactive

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Miffed White Male

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    They could increase comfort, decrease accidents, lower traffic congestion (imagine a world where half the cars are gone?) and there by speed up travel times,

    Not sure the “lower traffic congestion” part is true.

    1: If transport becomes easier/cheaper/you can do other stuff while moving, then presumably people will do more of it.

    I read somewhere (so it must be true) that adding lanes to highways ultimately doesn’t decrease congestion or travel time, because humans change their habits to access the new lanes until the point it no longer becomes worthwhile, thus all those new lanes are just as congested as before. That speaks to your point.

    • #20
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:20 AM PST
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  21. RyanFalcone Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I can see maybe fully autonomous self-driving cars on limited access highways away from urban areas within a few years.

    On regular city streets? I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime. And I’m not that old (54).

    Actually, city streets might be the second place you see these cars become mandatory after highways. Once these cars become normalized, streets will be re-engineered to the point where humans wouldn’t be able to drive even if we wanted to. It is already being discussed. Everything in cities will be mass/automated transit within 20 years in my personal opinion as a regional planner. The process will be far slower in rural areas do to limitations that make the engineering fairly impossible. For folks like me who like to drive, we’ll have to drive all-terrain vehicles on our private land or go to tracks that provide the experience.

    • #21
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:25 AM PST
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  22. Jeff Smith Inactive

    It is bad enough that Big Data and Big Government know where you are and virtually everything else about you (and how quickly was the right to privacy for “convenience” surrendered by all?). With the advent of the driverless car they will be able to control everyone’s movement as well. It will be the death of freedom and liberty as we have known it since the use of the horse and then autonomous cars by the general populous. What use is the right to bear arms to resist tyranny, if the arms cannot be transported and brought to bear? If the SJWs of BD and BG don’t want you to hear Milo speak, well they just won’t take anyone within walking distance of the event; so much for freedom of speech. Freedom of assembly? Even easier to prevent. “THAT DESTINATION IS UNAUTHORISED!”

    To expect that these new AI technologies won’t be used for total social control of the citizenry, is the victory of hope over experience.

    • #22
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:31 AM PST
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  23. dittoheadadt Inactive

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    We haven’t had a meaningful transportation innovation in over 60 years. I think the jet plane being the last one.

    Anti-lock brakes comes to mind. Front-wheel drive. Seat belts, airbags, crumple zones. The list ain’t short. Maybe not paradigm-changers, but meaningful innovation? Absolutely.

    • #23
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:32 AM PST
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  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RyanFalcone (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I can see maybe fully autonomous self-driving cars on limited access highways away from urban areas within a few years.

    On regular city streets? I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime. And I’m not that old (54).

    Actually, city streets might be the second place you see these cars become mandatory after highways. Once these cars become normalized, streets will be re-engineered to the point where humans wouldn’t be able to drive even if we wanted to. It is already being discussed. Everything in cities will be mass/automated transit within 20 years in my personal opinion as a regional planner. The process will be far slower in rural areas do to limitations that make the engineering fairly impossible. For folks like me who like to drive, we’ll have to drive all-terrain vehicles on our private land or go to tracks that provide the experience.

    There are several orders of magnitude more decisions to be made per minute in city traffic than any other kind. Cities are also swarming with vulnerable pedestrians.

    You also have to deal with the a-hole element. I’ve read that people are already screwing with self-driving cars by walking off of sidewalks and standing in front of them to prevent them from moving. You can do that with computer-controlled cars because you can depend on the “driver” to behave in a non-threatening manner.

    • #24
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:32 AM PST
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  25. RyanFalcone Member

    dittoheadadt (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Miffed White Male

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    They could increase comfort, decrease accidents, lower traffic congestion (imagine a world where half the cars are gone?) and there by speed up travel times,

    Not sure the “lower traffic congestion” part is true.

    1: If transport becomes easier/cheaper/you can do other stuff while moving, then presumably people will do more of it.

    I read somewhere (so it must be true) that adding lanes to highways ultimately doesn’t decrease congestion or travel time, because humans change their habits to access the new lanes until the point it no longer becomes worthwhile, thus all those new lanes are just as congested as before. That speaks to your point.

    Everything that I am hearing and seeing points to capacity increasing exponentially once humans are eliminated from the engineering requirements of our transportation system. I’ve looked at these studies with a skeptical eye as a rugged individualist, jeep owner. Yet, I honestly must say that this will massively cut commute times and lower pollution to levels not seen since pre-car days. Think of vehicular lanes that go from 14 to 6 feet and speed limits that rise by 50%.

    • #25
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:33 AM PST
    • Like
  26. RyanFalcone Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    There are several orders of magnitude more decisions to be made per minute in city traffic than any other kind. Cities are also swarming with vulnerable pedestrians.

    You also have to deal with the a-hole element. I’ve read that people are already screwing with self-driving cars by walking off of sidewalks and standing in front of them to prevent them from moving. You can do that with computer-controlled cars because you can depend on the “driver” to behave in a non-threatening manner.

    These issues are already being easily dealt with as bike and pedestrian only spaces are being forced into cities. None of these problems are very serious. There are easy barriers that eliminate bike/ped/car conflict in automated scenarios. Also, cars will not resemble what you would describe as a car today. Once human drivers are eliminated from the equation, a-holes will find new creative outlets for their artistry.

    • #26
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:41 AM PST
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  27. Ralphie Member

    Cars currently last about 10 – 20 years. We sell older cars everyday. Every used car is unique. How do the poor working class buy self driving cars within 5 to 10 years unless they are mass marketed today, and are about $2,000 to $6,000? Another major cash for clunkers I expect.

    More interesting is the people moving drones.

    • #27
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:43 AM PST
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  28. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RyanFalcone (View Comment):
    There are easy barriers that eliminate bike/ped/car conflict in automated scenarios. Also, cars will not resemble what you would describe as a car today

    “barriers” on all streets to eliminate car/pedestrian conflicts? Doesn’t sound like streets will resemble what I would describe as a street today either.

    I assume by barriers you’re not talking about things like curbs or painted lines, because those don’t stop pedestrians. And they’d have to be everywhere in the city, not just a few main streets.

    • #28
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:49 AM PST
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  29. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RyanFalcone (View Comment):
    Everything in cities will be mass/automated transit within 20 years in my personal opinion as a regional planner.

    A: The process will be far slower in rural areas do to limitations that make the engineering fairly impossible.

    B: For folks like me who like to drive, we’ll have to drive all-terrain vehicles on our private land or go to tracks that provide the experience.

    A: and B: are in conflict.

    And much of what I’m seeing described by the proponents of fully automated vehicles requires massive infrastructure changes before true self-driving vehicles will be possible, which raises its own set of problems. You can’t gradually convert from having everybody drive on the left side of the road to the right side over a period of time. It has to happen all at once. This is similar. That’s why I can see self-driving vehicles on limited access highways. I can’t see them in urban areas for a long, long time.

    • #29
    • February 15, 2017, at 6:56 AM PST
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  30. RyanFalcone Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    RyanFalcone (View Comment):
    Everything in cities will be mass/automated transit within 20 years in my personal opinion as a regional planner.

    A: The process will be far slower in rural areas do to limitations that make the engineering fairly impossible.

    B: For folks like me who like to drive, we’ll have to drive all-terrain vehicles on our private land or go to tracks that provide the experience.

    A: and B: are in conflict.

    And much of what I’m seeing described by the proponents of fully automated vehicles requires massive infrastructure changes before true self-driving vehicles will be possible, which raises its own set of problems. You can’t gradually convert from having everybody drive on the left side of the road to the right side over a period of time. It has to happen all at once. This is similar. That’s why I can see self-driving vehicles on limited access highways. I can’t see them in urban areas for a long, long time.

    How are A & B in conflict?

    First, you will see Hi-Occupancy lanes converted to autonomous only lanes. Than you will see those Autonomous lanes and regular lanes switch. Than the manual lanes will be eliminated altogether. Limited access is very easily converted. Here in Pittsburgh, there are already dozens of autonomous vehicles driving around daily on city streets.

    • #30
    • February 15, 2017, at 7:25 AM PST
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