NEW YORK CITY — Uber said Monday it plans to buy as many as 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo beginning in less than two years.
New York’s governor wants to bring driverless cars to the big apple even sooner. But is the city ready?
Mix millions of cars, pedestrians, bicyclists and delivery trucks and you get Manhattan driving. It’s at best unpredictable, at worst, chaos.
For today’s self-driving cars, that mixture might be too much.
“So this cop that’s flagging traffic here right now that would confuse the current generation of the self-driving cars?” asked reporter Kris Van Cleave.
“Yes,” said Brad Stertz from Audi. “We’re not there yet because the brain is not advanced to be able to understand what that person is doing.”
We drove the city streets with Brad Stertz from Audi. He’s been working on autonomous driving technology for over a decade.
“So, with the self-driving car the future of being able to predict that that guy was going to swing out into my lane?” asked Van Cleave.
“Probably not predict but you would’ve seen him start to edge over and would have sort of backed off a little bit,” Stertz said.
Stertz thinks it could be 2035 before self-driving cars are common in New York City. But Governor Andrew Cuomo wants autonomous vehicles to get a big apple test drive next year. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said not so fast.
“I really don’t like it,” de Blasio said. “I don’t think its a mistake. I think it creates a danger.”
Self-driving cars use sensors to detect their surroundings and are programmed to follow traffic laws. But a dense city environment might overwhelm the current technology.
“If it weren’t for humans, I mean autonomous vehicles would work perfectly,” said Sam Schwartz, the former New York City traffic commissioner.
He said the two things autonomous vehicles haven’t figured out yet are what to do when pedestrians and cyclists move suddenly into the street.