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.
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.