This year was meant to be the year of the driverless car. And indeed, hundreds of robotaxis were unleashed on San Francisco streets. But then, for one company, things took a disastrous turn. NPR’s Dara Kerr reports.
DARA KERR, BYLINE: The first time General Motors CEO Mary Barra rode in a driverless car, she was giddy.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARY BARRA: Oh, my God (laughter).
KERR: That’s her in a video of the ride. GM had made a big bet on self-driving cars by buying the startup Cruise in 2016. It’s since invested billions…
KERR: There were a lot of sticky situations. Driverless cars collided with fire trucks and blocked bus lanes. Confused vehicles clogged dead-end streets, and one ran over a dog.
PHILIP KOOPMAN: The part about we’re busy saving lives, so ignore all the mess you see – it has run its course.
KERR: Philip Koopman is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon and an expert in self-driving car safety. He says all the talk around driverless cars being perfect and better than human drivers is partially what got the companies in trouble.
KOOPMAN: The narrative started to unravel when they promised we wouldn’t make the same stupid mistakes as human drivers, and then they got caught on camera making the same stupid mistakes.