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Autonomous Vehicles

Volkswagen, Mobileye Target Israel as Waymo Driverless Cars Hit Bay Area

The reaction to a press release about Intel’s Mobileye and Volkswagen planning to launch an autonomous car ride-hailing service in Israel shows how easy it still is to garner cheap headlines in the field. While some headlines said the companies “will” launch a service next year, it is likely to be a “soft” launch of vehicles that carry passengers in limited circumstances and geography. Road infrastructure in Israel is decent, but drivers there are notoriously aggressive and will make life difficult for driverless vehicles for many decades. The good news is that pedestrians in Israel generally follow the rules.

The release says the project will be set up as a joint venture between the companies and will ramp up to “commercialization” by 2022. As we reported in January, Mobileye’s plan to develop full autonomous driving is still theoretical, according to some of its customers. The company did not help its cause this spring when one of its prototype autonomous cars ran a red light during a demonstration for the press. As with all announcements about new efforts in self-driving cars, there’s simply nothing to see yet.

That stands in contrast to Alphabet’s Waymo, which is focused on testing in the Arizona suburbs for an autonomous ride-hailing service but said today it received the first permit to test driverless vehicles (i.e. without a “safety” driver behind the wheel) in California. Such tests will be heavily monitored and confined for some time.

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