When will self-driving cars hit the road?

A self-driving car made by General Motors. Industry experts note that the hype around self-driving cars, sometimes referred to as autonomous vehicles, has existed since 2004, when United States military experiments involving self-driving vehicles in the Mojave Desert garnered both attention and excitement. STEVE FECHT/FOR GENERAL MOTORS
A self-driving car made by General Motors. Industry experts note that the hype around self-driving cars, sometimes referred to as autonomous vehicles, has existed since 2004, when United States military experiments involving self-driving vehicles in the Mojave Desert garnered both attention and excitement. STEVE FECHT/FOR GENERAL MOTORS

Tech afficionados often know when the latest gizmos and gadgets are slated to hit the market and be made available to consumers.

Anticipation tends to build around everything from the latest version of a popular smartphone to a new incarnation of a beloved gaming system. But perhaps no advancement in technology is as highly anticipated as the self-driving car.

Industry experts note that the hype around self-driving cars, sometimes referred to as autonomous vehicles, has existed since 2004, when United States military experiments involving self-driving vehicles in the Mojave Desert garnered both attention and excitement.

That anticipation and excitement waned as 2004 was left further and further behind in the rearview mirror, but the race to become the first auto manufacturer to build and offer driverless vehicles is still very much on.

For example, in 2018 General Motors indicated its intent to make a fleet of self-driving taxis available in San Francisco by 2020. That did not come to fruition, though other auto manufacturers, notably Tesla, have indicated they have their eyes on potentially offering autonomous taxis in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated, and likely delayed, the arrival of self-driving automobiles, though it remains to be seen just how much the pandemic affected the arrival of driverless vehicles.

A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance noted that many auto manufacturers who have worked on self-driving technology had initially set their sights on deployment in 2021.

However, lab closures and social distancing measures enacted in response to the pandemic may have made it highly unlikely that 2021 will be the year the world sees its first fleet of self-driving taxis hit the road.

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