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Fifteen years ago I ran a DARPA Grand Challenge team. At the time, I thought about commercial applications. Starting at the slow-speed end looked better from a safety perspective. Most problems below 25MPH can be dealt with by slamming on the brakes.

The first area to look at was rental car return. When you're done with the rental car, you get out at the terminal, and it drives itself, slowly, back to rental car turn-in. When you order a rental car at the airport, it drives itself slowly to the terminal and picks you up at the curb. Then you drive away manually.

The numbers didn't look good. You're competing with minimum wage labor, and the hardware costs too much. That's still the case. Also, back then, everybody was so paranoid about airport security that getting this past TSA would be really hard.

Second area was shuttle buses. Parking lots, campuses, amusement parks - all slow speed applications. Local Motors and Navya are doing this. Navya had a backup driver on their Las Vegas shuttle bus for the first year or so. Not clear if they finally got rid of them. They have several test installations, but it's not clear that they have trustworthy real autonomy. They have a demo route in Switzerland, but "VBSH has in addition hired and trained three attendants who are always also on board the bus during trips." Their CEO was just fired for underperforming.[1] Local Motors does demos, but still seems to be searching for a serious customer. Baidu has a self-driving bus program, and they've built about a hundred of them. Not clear if they need a "safety driver".

It's rather disappointing that even the slow speed shuttle buses on fixed routes are not yet really autonomous.

[1] https://venturebeat.com/2018/12/19/navya-ceo-fired-after-big...




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