Reasons Why The Driverless Car Revolution Has Slowed Down

Last Updated: 18/01/2021

Despite all of the hype associated with the driverless car of the future, a realisation that a huge challenge awaits is now starting to dawn.

Uber has put its plans for robotaxis on the back burner as the big names in Silicon Valley who insisted that self-driving cars would be on our roads by 2021 have gone quiet.

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi asserted that “Few technologies hold as much promise to improve people’s lives with safe, accessible, and environmentally friendly transportation,” but some are not so sure that driverless cars are going to be a common sight on our motorways or city streets in the very near future.

Reality Setting In

Professor Nick Reed, a transport consultant who ran UK self-driving trials, says: “The perspectives have changed since 2015, when it was probably peak hype. Reality is setting in about the challenges and complexity.”

According to the Professor, “the technology worked … people had the sense, it does the right thing most of the time, we are 90% of the way there. But it is that last bit which is the toughest. Being able reliably to do the right thing every single time, whether it’s raining, snowing, fog, is a bigger challenge than anticipated.”

For Reed, only if highways existed that were reserved for driverless vehicles, all going the same direction, with clearly defined lane markings could the prospect of autonomous driving become a reality.

The real challenge would be with city driving and driverless vehicles.


Safety was seen as the most important benefit because data shows that more than 90% of all road accidents are caused by human error.

Another important benefit would be the reduction in road congestion.

Like Uber, Ford has also postponed its launch of an autonomous taxi service, particularly as the pandemic has delayed trials of driverless vehicles, according to Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

ALKS – Automated Lane Keeping Systems

Changes planned for everyday cars could still allow innovations which ensure that the vehicle remains in the appropriate lane – known as ALKS – Automated Lane Keeping Systems.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders believes that the ALKS technology represents the first step in automated driving technology which could “prevent some 47,000 serious accidents over the next decade, while creating up to 420,000 new jobs”.

Two main obstacles to the swift progression of the autonomous vehicle could be the reluctance of insurers to cover driverless vehicles.

Concern seems to be around the regulations and code of practice that accompany the technology itself, coupled with the trust of the public.

Uber Self-Driving Car Kills Pedestrian In US

This reluctance has clearly been heightened by the report of a Uber self-driving car that killed a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018.

It is therefore highly unlikely that despite Tesla and Apple doing their utmost to develop a driverless vehicle by 2024, the law will allow drivers to give up the wheel anytime soon.

The author of Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere?, Christian Wolmar makes the point that it is not social acceptance, security or cost that have been regarded as the main problems.

It seems to be that in the main, people do not want to rely on robo-taxis in preference to their own vehicle.

Rather, it is specific uses that hold more appeal.

Britain & Driverless Cars

As far as Britain is concerned, one of the leading lights, Professor Paul Newman from Oxford University is optimistic about the long term although he does not believe that we will be driving completely driverless cars.

Rather, he believes that “occasionally there might be a remote assist” which will make the driverless car much more reachable and practical.