A year ago, Detroit and Silicon Valley had visions of putting thousands of self-driving taxis on the road in 2019, ushering in an age of driverless cars.
Most of those cars have yet to arrive — and it is likely to be years before they do. Several carmakers and technology companies have concluded that making autonomous vehicles is going to be harder, slower and costlier than they thought.
“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, said at the Detroit Economic Club in April.
In the most recent sign of the scramble to regroup, Ford and Volkswagen said Friday that they were teaming up to tackle the self-driving challenge.
The two automakers plan to use autonomous-vehicle technology from a Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, in ride-sharing services in a few urban zones as early as 2021. But Argo’s chief executive, Bryan Salesky, said the industry’s bigger promise of creating driverless cars that could go anywhere was “way in the future.”
He and others attribute the delay to something as obvious as it is stubborn: human behavior.
Researchers at Argo say the cars they are testing in Pittsburgh and Miami have to navigate unexpected situations every day. Recently, one of the company’s cars encountered a bicyclist riding the wrong way down a busy street between other vehicles.
Another Argo test car came across a street sweeper that suddenly turned a giant circle in an intersection, touching all four corners and crossing lanes of traffic that had the green light.
“You see all kinds of crazy things on the road, and it turns out they’re not all that infrequent, but you have to be able to handle all of them,” Salesky said. “With radar and high-resolution cameras and all the computing power we have, we can detect and identify the objects on a street. The hard part is anticipating what they’re going to do next.”
Salesky said Argo and many competitors had developed about 80% of the technology needed to put self-driving cars into routine use — the radar, cameras and other sensors that can identify objects far down roads and highways.
But the remaining 20%, including developing software that can reliably anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are going to do, will be much more difficult, he said.
A year ago, many industry executives exuded much greater certainty. They thought that their engineers had solved the most vexing technical problems and promised that self-driving cars would be shuttling people around town in at least several cities by sometime this year.
結合汽車製造與最新科技的自動駕駛車是近年焦點。本文在前三段就使用了自駕車常見的三個英文同義詞：autonomous/self-driving/driverless cars，autonomous意為maneuvered by computers without human intervention，字首的auto即有「自動」之意。
Sensors, GPS and high-resolution cameras都是自駕車的基本技術，這些配備由汽車電腦指揮控制，將捕捉的數據和影像轉換成行車所需資訊。
不過文中也提到，開發挑戰在於人為因素。即使設備可以識別出行人、其他駕駛或自行車騎士，但難以預期他們的行為，也可說是unpredictable。換句話說，It is difficult to determine the intentions of pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers.