For a hot minute there, autonomous driving was all the rage in the States. During 2020 and 2021, a slew of Autonomous vehicles startups went public via SPACs, raking in over $50 billion in valuations. Talk about hype! But the hype train has slowed to a crawl. Turns out, rolling out robotaxis and autonomous vehicles is way harder than anyone imagined.
Those astronomical valuations? They’ve tanked over 80% on average. Ouch. The reasons are obvious: huge losses, a slow industry, and too many unknowns about what the future may hold.
In 2023, we’re still stuck at Level 4 autonomy in the U.S., with companies testing on a small scale. The enthusiasm for dumping buckets of cash into R&D seems to be fading, and no one company has pulled ahead as a clear leader. Even Tesla, for big ideas, hasn’t unveiled any new plans for its Robotaxi program. Instead, the company’s focusing on developing both autonomous driving and robotics, Tesla’s not making Robotaxi a priority now, though its FSD software updated to FSD Beta v11.4.1, the v12 could bring its systems closer to end-to-end autonomy.
The U.S. led the charge in the last wave of autonomous driving mania. Waymo, Cruise, and others jumped in, attracting investments from automakers across the globe. But looking at where things stand in 2023, whether it’s Tesla or any other company, self-driving tech hasn’t lived up to the hype.
Waymo start rolling out new vehicles and systems from 2021, but who knows how quickly they’ll scale. As Google’s parent company faces bigger strategic challenges, they may pour more resources into autonomy.
Cruise burns through $500 million a quarter in the run-up to expansion, but when they’ll actually expand is anyone’s guess.
Lyft and Uber pulled their own self-driving programs, casting serious doubt on if or how Robotaxis might operate.
Argo AI shut down completely, dealing a huge blow to confidence in the viability of Level 4 vehicles.
The autonomous driving craze in the U.S. may have cooled, but the road to robotaxis is still long. Autonomy will get here, just not as fast as its hype machine predicted. The future’s unclear, but it’ll be an exciting ride watching it take shape.