The Road From 98% Autonomous Cars to 100% Autonomous Cars Will Take About Five Years

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Uber decided to put a few of its self-driving cars on the road in San Francisco without bothering to tell anyone, so yesterday the California DMV revoked the registration of its cars. During the week they were tootling around the city, however, people reported that Uber’s cars were running red lights and making right turns incorrectly. Atrios comments:

People always say “oh, well, if it works 98% of the time and then every now and then the cars needs the driver to step in then that’s good enough.” No, that isn’t good enough. There isn’t time for me to switch from taking a nap or texting my pals to taking over when a bike lane appears suddenly, unless I’m paying 100% attention. And no one is going to pay 100% attention in a “self-driving car” because what’s the point.

Who says that? I’ve never heard anything remotely like this from anyone with more than a Twitter egg understanding of autonomous vehicles. The goal is, and always has been, a car that’s 100 percent self-driving. Personally, I envision something the size of a tiny room with a couple of La-Z-Boy recliners suitable for reading, twittering, watching Buffy reruns, or taking a nap.

We’re not there yet, of course, and no one claims otherwise. But the fact that we’re not there yet doesn’t mean we’ll never get there. Griping about the fact that current iterations of autonomous vehicles aren’t perfect doesn’t seem very productive.

Personally, I’m hoping to live long enough to ride in a fully autonomous car and prove Atrios wrong. I think it’s gonna be a close call.

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

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