We’ve talked before about the significant public perception issue that autonomous vehicles need to overcome. In a nutshell, beyond the significant challenge of perfecting AV technology itself, winning consumer trust will be a tricky piece of the commercialization puzzle.
A recent study found that while many consumers are excited to reclaim driving time in a fully self-driving vehicle, over a third would still do nothing but supervise the car:
To be sure, there is an element of “seeing is believing” at play with AVs, and it’s unclear whether that figure was motivated by nervousness or just vague survey wording.
Even then, putting passengers’ minds at ease is only part of the equation. Researchers are also pondering how AVs will communicate with outside parties like pedestrians and human drivers in the absence of the usual facial expressions, hand gestures, and one-fingered salutes.
My colleague Zoe (@zoe_leavitt) spotted a new patent application detailing some of Uber’s ideas in this field, ranging from body-mounted displays to a virtual driver on the windshield.
Uber isn’t alone in investigating this area of human-machine interaction. For example, AV startup Drive.ai emphasized communication in its initial unveiling last fall, with a concept featuring LED signs, emoji-like pictograms, and richer auditory feedback than the traditional one-note horn.
Chris on our team also surfaced a Ford patent tackling a (slightly less serious) problem, bringing relief to fans of the back-pocket wallet with a variable-hardness seat cushion:
Admittedly, this may be more of a gender-specific thorn, and we’re still waiting for a venture-backed, tech-driven solution for the ultimate car seat problem:
We have some big news to share, but first, some quick bullets and announcements:
Uber: More this week on Uber’s financials, CEO search, and first pitch deck. The latter estimated the company’s TAM as $4.2B, a figure that now seems absurdly low even in light of its troubles. (Our upcoming Uber Teardown will be a full analysis of the company’s strategy.)
Shuttles: Apple’s scaled-back Project Titan has gone from literally considering a reinvention of the wheel to a planned autonomous employee shuttle service. May Mobility also made its public debut at YC’s demo day, joining a pack of startups working on autonomous shuttles.
Waymo testing: The Atlantic got a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s testing and simulation efforts. Of note: navigating multi-lane roundabouts is a challenge, the existence of which also seemed to surprise Waymo’s engineers. This highlights the localization challenge for AVs and the need to account for traffic features and patterns that vary significantly across regions.