Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said

In 2015, Elon Musk said self-driving cars that could drive “anywhere” would be here within two or three years.

In 2016, Lyft CEO John Zimmer predicted they would “all but end” car ownership by 2025.

In 2018, Waymo CEO John Krafcik warned autonomous robocars would take longer than expected.

In 2021, some experts aren’t sure when, if ever, individuals will be able to purchase steering-wheel-free cars that drive themselves off the lot.

In contrast to investors and CEOs, academics who study artificial intelligence, systems engineering and autonomous technologies have long said that creating a fully self-driving automobile would take many years, perhaps decades. Now some are going further, saying that despite investments already topping $80 billion, we may never get the self-driving cars we were promised. At least not without major breakthroughs in AI, which almost no one is predicting will arrive anytime soon—or a complete redesign of our cities.

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