2018 was supposed to be a break-through year for self-driving cars, the technology is here, Uber and Waymo have accumulated a decent amount of test mileage, Tesla was selling a full “self-driving” software upgrade for its vehicles and Waymo was promising to launch a full commercial service by the end of the year. However, the year turned into a disappointment for many industry watchers as several accidents and under-whelming services failed to live up to the expectations.
It all went downhill from March, when a Uber self-driving car had a fatal accident, killing a pedestrian. Same time, Tesla’s “self-driving” technology resulted in a death of a driver, when it turned out the driver didn’t fully understand the capabilities of its vehicle and the car slammed into a concrete barrier.
Waymo has been fortunate not to suffer such fatal accidents, however, it learned a lesson that it’s better to be on a safer side, launching its under-whelming Waymo One service with safety drivers behind the steering wheels. Even that wasn’t so well received, as residents in Arizona were throwing rocks at the vehicles. Tesla was made to stop saying that its vehicles are fully self-driving and it no longer sells the “self-driving” upgrade. There was much more disappointing news in the self-driving car world.
It’s clear that while technology is advancing fast, launching of self-driving vehicle services as commercial services remains a risky business, as industry watchers have very high expectations for these services to turn into revolutions, while public and government remain very skeptical and cautious.
China introduces new ride-hailing regulations
New regulations requiring special licenses to operate ride-hailing vehicles have entered force in China. The new rules are known as “double-license” requirement — one for operating a commercial vehicle, and one for being a ride-hailing driver. These licenses are associated with extra costs for drivers who have enjoyed more relaxed rules up till now, allowing millions of individuals to earn extra money without committing to the job full-time.
Special rules for operating ride-hailing vehicles are defined by individual states or cities, some requiring residence permit and proof of no criminal record. Drivers are also required to absorb the costs of vehicle insurance and maintenance and discard vehicles after 8 years of operation. Being an independent contractor is still allowed, however, now individuals will be made to register their private vehicles as commercial ones and therefore, pay extra duties, even if they are not operating full-time. This, of course, discourages ‘gig’ work.
The rules are designed to bring order to the Chinese ride-hailing market, one of the fastest growing ones in the world. The Chinese government has expressed concern that individuals from rural areas drive to cities to work occasionally there as ride-hailing drivers, creating extra stress for traffic and congestion. Didi Chuxing says it has already banned 170,000 illegal drivers from its platform.
Tesla hits record production, still disappoints investors
Tesla has hit its quarterly record production in the last fourth of the year, manufacturing 90 700 vehicles. The electric vehicle company made 61 394 Model 3, a 15% gain from the previous quarter, 25 161 units of Model S and Model X totaled. However, investors were not impressed with the numbers, as the company is still below its promise of 5000 weekly vehicle goal (currently at 4700). As a result, the company’s shares were 8% lower after the announcement of the results. At the same time, all Nasdaq companies are suffering as a result of the general fall after the announcement of Apple’s new diminished projections.