Opinion: The autonomous car charade

Julio Franco

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

It’s time to face some challenging realities when it comes to the world of autonomous cars. While consensus seems to imply that the future of driving is nearly upon us, even a relatively cursory check at some of the necessary enablers for truly autonomous automobiles would suggest otherwise.

From security concerns to high costs to missing infrastructure to car design complexity to uncertain legal expectations, and more, there are a host of legitimate concerns that, in some cases, by themselves represent a serious challenge to the near-term release of truly independent vehicles. Taken together, however, they strongly suggest a much longer timeline for adoption than many have been led to believe.

Let’s start with some basics. The general expectation is that autonomy is intrinsically linked to vehicle electrification. The big problem here is that very few consumers are buying or planning to buy electric vehicles. Sure, we can point to the hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for Tesla’s Model 3, but even if they all get delivered over the next two years, they will represent a tiny single digit percentage of total US auto sales.

Throw in all the other electric vehicles from other carmakers and the number still remains well below 5%. Why? In part because US consumers are generally very concerned about getting stranded if the batteries run out. Rightly or wrongly, until we see nearly as many charging stations as we have gas stations, there will be reluctance on the part of car buyers to give up their gas-powered vehicles. (Of course, throw in the fact that there are multiple electric car charging standards and that charging “fill-ups” are measured in tens of minutes—or even hours—and you start to get a sense of the problem.)

We could start to see more interest in electric vehicles as second cars that are used primarily for short errand trips around town, but then we run into pricing concerns because few people want to spend more for a second car than their primary vehicle. Plus, the costs and potential impact on the electric grid as consumers start to install in-garage charging systems—yet another expense associated with electric cars—are potential concerns.

Even if we get past the electric car issues—or if, as I suspect, we start to see more autonomous driving features in hybrid or even gas-powered vehicles—plenty of other obstacles remain.

Foremost among these are security issues—at many levels. First, there is the physical security and safety of both autonomous vehicle occupants and the other people who interact with autonomous vehicles. While it’s clear that great advances in autonomous driving algorithms have been made, it’s also obvious that there are still concerns about how “ready” this technology currently is. The fact that several engineers from Tesla’s AutoPilot program actually went so far as to leave the company, in part because of their concerns about the potential safety concerns of current implementations, speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in autonomous driving systems.

Beyond physical safety are the cybersecurity concerns. As has been discussed by many before, there are enormous potential threats that are opened when the connectivity necessary to build and run autonomous cars is put into place. The notion of hacking when it comes to automobiles moves from an annoyance to a life-threatening concern.

Many companies are currently doing excellent work to try to combat or prevent these kinds of issues. However, their work is made significantly more difficult by the fact that modern car designs and internal architectures are both extraordinarily complex—“Rube Goldberg”-like is not far from the truth—and, in some instances, based on old, limited standards that were never intended to support today’s computing and connectivity requirements.

It’s going to be a long, and likely messy, battle to get this figured out and to get the infrastructure built before any cars can start to really use it (V2V vehicle-to-vehicle and V2I vehicle to infrastructure communication)

The recent discovery that the CANbus (which is an absolutely essential part of how a car’s various systems components are linked together) is fundamentally broken when it comes to preventing some modern types of digital threats, for example, is just the latest in the long line of concerns about current car architectures. The truth is, we’re way overdue for an entirely new approach to car design—especially for autonomous cars—but the auto industry’s supply chain, infrastructure, and entire way of working is stacked strongly against these kinds of necessary major changes happening anytime soon.

Even if we’re much more optimistic about the technology work being done within the cars, there are yet other external factors that will continue to act as an impediment to near-term deployment. For example, one of the key technologies expected to enable full autonomy is the ability for cars to communicate with each other and other elements of the transportation infrastructure (stoplights, road signs, etc.), commonly referred to as V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle to infrastructure). The problem is, even though the US auto industry agreed about 15 years ago to use a technology called DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications), there are essentially no major deployments of the technology, and now there are strong efforts to switch to a more modern standard based on the kinds of technologies expected to be part of 5G cellular networks. It’s going to be a long, and likely messy, battle to get this figured out and to get the infrastructure built before any cars can start to really use it.

Finally, there are also concerns about regulatory standards, insurance liability, and other legal issues that could dramatically slow down deployments even if all the aforementioned technical, security, infrastructure, and other issues do get resolved.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to imagine widespread availability and usage of autonomous cars for a very long time to come. Having said that, I believe there are enormous benefits around “assisted driving” features that are much more likely to have a very strong and very positive near-term impact. From automatic braking to more advanced cruise control, there are some great new technologies coming soon to cars that will both help save lives and make our driving experiences more pleasant and more convenient.

In addition, I believe we will see real deployments of autonomy in the near future for applications like fleet driving of large cargo vehicles on interstates and other places where the return on investment is much clearer and the risks are a bit lower. Even still, those applications will likely not become commonplace until well into the next decade.

For those predicting radical changes in how consumer-purchased cars and trucks are built, bought, and used over the next few years, however, it’s time to stop the charade.

Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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Puiu

TS Evangelist
Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
 

p51d007

TS Evangelist
THANK YOU! The ONLY way to have this "work" would be to say that, for example, on 1 January, 2025, NO manually driven cars would be allowed on U.S. roads.
Yeah, THAT's going to happen!
autonomous cars, are NOT coming to the U.S. at least not any time soon. People that live in major urban areas perhaps, will accept them quicker than those of us out here in "flyover" country, that still ENJOY driving.
 

seefizzle

TS Evangelist
Ford intends on having a fully autonomous vehicle ready for commercial production by 2021.

Everyone is in a mad dash to be the first / best autonomous car company. Whoever gets there first will disrupt the car industry on a major level.

My kid is 9 right now. I fully anticipate that he won't own a vehicle the same way that I have owned vehicles my whole life. He'll simply call on a car when he needs to use one and it'll come pick him up
 

RedGuard

TS Enthusiast
All I ever wanted is to drive on a sunny day on an empty road. Worry free.

With the high traffic, huge taxes on gas and now with this desire of killing the driver, I won't ever have my dream come true.
 

madboyv1

TechSpot Paladin
My kid is 9 right now. I fully anticipate that he won't own a vehicle the same way that I have owned vehicles my whole life. He'll simply call on a car when he needs to use one and it'll come pick him up
We're practically at this point if you live in a major city (and don't venture often out of it on your own). Some inner city dwellers relying almost exclusively on uber/lyft/ride sharing when walking/public transportation/bicycling won't cut it, but I suppose you meant autonomously.

I agree that it will be people and the cost of infrastructure that'll slow down adoption of fully autonomous cars.
 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
I would suggest the author spend a little time in the history books. The first powered flight in 1903 to the first moon landing in 1969. There is plenty of evidence that clearly shows technological achievements are rapidly increasing and the implementation of AI in all sorts of different applications. We may soon see that surrounding infrastructure will have no bearing on the ability of autonomous vehicles and with the recent leap forward in electric vehicles, it won't be far behind. A realistic figure? 10-15 years is certainly not out of reach with some full scale implementations in a slightly shorter period. Keep in mind, you are only seeing what is being displayed to the public. DARPA has been well ahead of the curve and has heavily classified their best discoveries. Today's drones are only a shadow of the current fleet the military uses and remote aircraft function and navigation has been around for well over a decade.
 

BigMack70

TS Booster
People who are optimistic about these things in the near future are looking purely at the best case scenario implementations of the technology, and they are thinking about it from a sort of "spec sheet" mindset where they just focus on what it can do. What they miss is that it is not best case scenarios but rather worst case scenarios which will have the larger effect on mass adoption, and there are a LOT of undesirable "worst case scenarios" with the technology both now and in the foreseeable future. Even if the safety issues and AI get sorted out, the infrastructure in America just isn't there to support it, and sorry folks, it's not going to be there in 2025 either at anything resembling a national level. The path from "niche, interesting tech" to "general adoption by the consumer" is not yet discernible, at least for the US.
 
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Adhmuz

TechSpot Paladin
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, autonomous vehicles can not work unless market saturation is at or very near the 100% mark, because until that day, the biggest variable for autonomous vehicles are the other non autonomous vehicles on the road which is an unpredictable factor that is unaccountable for. The technology now is a good start, but it's just not ready, in 10 years it may achieve an acceptable level of abilities, but still too many vehicles will be on the road that predate the technology. Figure a good 20 years after it becomes mandatory on all new production vehicles before it can actually go live and be trusted.

Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
The technology might be good by 2025, but it's still not going to help with the non autonomous vehicles still on the roads.

Electric vehicles and autonomy has nothing to do with one another, all the same controls are present on both gas and electric vehicles, most gas cars are all electrically controlled already and can be controlled remotely, they just need the software and cameras to do so. The first autonomous vehicles were gas powered, but they had to use servos and actuators for the controls, nothing outrageously complicated.
 
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Stiqy

TS Booster
How do they work in snow? Oh... not at all. Heavy rain? Dangerously. All these tests are done on sunny California-like days and clear nights. Lots of people don't live in lego towns with well painted lines and clearly lit signs everywhere.
 
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AntiShill

TS Booster
Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
Define "signifcant". Then compare significant to say Hurricane Harvey or Irma. Is significant going to be able to deal with Harvey or Irma? All that infrastructure that has to be in place, what happens when a natural disaster wrecks it? Set you back a few years again.

The reality is until the car/robot and handle everything on its own without extra external infrastructure support, whatever "significant" advancements, is NOT going to matter to get people adopting this new tech. You may say this is unfair because existing cars had all theses gas stations around, but that is the reality you have to compete with. There will probably be a good size market for portable tow in the back, or fit the in the truck gas powered electric generator/fuel cells or whatever transition tech that has to be in place to even begin to allow the transition begin. To top it all off, you better be cheaper while you are at it if you are going to get widespread acceptance.
 

Puiu

TS Evangelist
Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
Define "signifcant". Then compare significant to say Hurricane Harvey or Irma. Is significant going to be able to deal with Harvey or Irma? All that infrastructure that has to be in place, what happens when a natural disaster wrecks it? Set you back a few years again.

The reality is until the car/robot and handle everything on its own without extra external infrastructure support, whatever "significant" advancements, is NOT going to matter to get people adopting this new tech. You may say this is unfair because existing cars had all theses gas stations around, but that is the reality you have to compete with. There will probably be a good size market for portable tow in the back, or fit the in the truck gas powered electric generator/fuel cells or whatever transition tech that has to be in place to even begin to allow the transition begin. To top it all off, you better be cheaper while you are at it if you are going to get widespread acceptance.
Significant as in the standards to be created and the technology maturing to a point where some stickers on the streets sings don't mess with the AI. Once this happens it will become a standard feature which will drive infrastructure investments.
As for the electric cars, we're already past the point of no return. All we need is the technology to improve the milage you get with each charge and a few price drops. We are close to mass adoption.
The infrastructure for self-driving cars will ofc take many more years to be created. I see this being easier to implement in Europe/China than in the US (the same with electric cars).
 
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AntiShill

TS Booster
Significant as in the standards to be created and the technology maturing to a point where some stickers on the streets sings don't mess with the AI. Once this happens it will become a standard feature which will drive infrastructure investments.
As for the electric cars, we're already past the point of no return. All we need is the technology to improve the milage you get with each charge and a few price drops. We are close to mass adoption.
The infrastructure for self-driving cars will ofc take many more years to be created. I see this being easier to implement in Europe/China than in the US (the same with electric cars).
Suppose electric cars are cheap enough and production level high enough to support mass adoption starting today. Considering people drive old cars, keep existing car around, which is to say a car sold yesterday, I.e. non-electric/hybrid will probably have a real use lifespan of 10 years. So get all the non-electrics phased out, you need about 10 years if we can start today. So that will take us to 2027, and as you said

"The infrastructure for self-driving cars will ofc take many more years to be created. I see this being easier to implement in Europe/China than in the US (the same with electric cars)."

So what can we expect by 2025? What is it that is realistic that you have in mind for 2025? By 2025 A.I. won't be fooled by stickers on signs? What about missing signs? Or signs pointed the wrong way due to weather or mischief? Why would this be metric/milestone to drive infrastructure investment? I think it would be a small miracle if by 2050 we have self driving cars.

Recall someone famously said "fly is for droids". It would seem it would be all the more realistic to have A.I. technological advances, so you have something similar to R2 units. Heck this can be in built into your phones, or perhaps your robot assistant R2 unit that follows you around will be the phone. In any case all you will need is universal connector cable maybe USB ver 3000.0 or something and R2 unit can take over any vehicle (plane, boat, etc.) it has firmware and software for. Because generalized navigation is really not different for robot in house or the same robot out about about in the streets. The computational load for handling 10 mph vs 100 mph or even 1000mph is really not all that different and it is NOT where the compute limitations are. The hard problems are obstacle (both stationary and mobile) detection and collision avoidance. The important thing is you want this all encapsulated and not dependent of external infrastructure. The whole notion that it has to be an electric car is really tangential to real problems.
 

ChrisH1

TS Addict
It is quite easy to make an autonomous driving system that will work in standard conditions. However, without true Artificial Intelligence, no autonomous system can cope with the unexpected, and we are a way from true AI, machines that can truly think, extrapolate and dynamically and flexibly cope with the unknown.

Another problem is more subtle. People are usually quite forgiving of other people. You run into someone else's car in poor conditions, and you may encounter road rage - but you're just as likely to hear 'you're obviously sober and look like a decent person, just one of those things, could have happened to anyone, don't worry about it, we'll just let the insurance companies handle it'. But they are far less forgiving of machines, and the companies that make them. Even if autonomous cars are ten times less likely to have an accident than a human, when they do, those affected are going to think in terms of court cases, class actions and so on.

People also worry that if machines get it wrong, the effects can be horrendous. If a human makes a wrong turn and goes the wrong way down the road and has a small crash, they will realize pretty quickly something's wrong. If an autonomous car is told be all the info it has that the road is one way going its way, without true AI there's nothing in particular that will make it stop short of physical incapacity. Of course, that's a specific example and can be coded around. But you can't write specific code to handle every situation.
 
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Puiu

TS Evangelist
Suppose electric cars are cheap enough and production level high enough to support mass adoption starting today. Considering people drive old cars, keep existing car around, which is to say a car sold yesterday, I.e. non-electric/hybrid will probably have a real use lifespan of 10 years. So get all the non-electrics phased out, you need about 10 years if we can start today. So that will take us to 2027, and as you said

"The infrastructure for self-driving cars will ofc take many more years to be created. I see this being easier to implement in Europe/China than in the US (the same with electric cars)."

So what can we expect by 2025? What is it that is realistic that you have in mind for 2025? By 2025 A.I. won't be fooled by stickers on signs? What about missing signs? Or signs pointed the wrong way due to weather or mischief? Why would this be metric/milestone to drive infrastructure investment? I think it would be a small miracle if by 2050 we have self driving cars.

Recall someone famously said "fly is for droids". It would seem it would be all the more realistic to have A.I. technological advances, so you have something similar to R2 units. Heck this can be in built into your phones, or perhaps your robot assistant R2 unit that follows you around will be the phone. In any case all you will need is universal connector cable maybe USB ver 3000.0 or something and R2 unit can take over any vehicle (plane, boat, etc.) it has firmware and software for. Because generalized navigation is really not different for robot in house or the same robot out about about in the streets. The computational load for handling 10 mph vs 100 mph or even 1000mph is really not all that different and it is NOT where the compute limitations are. The hard problems are obstacle (both stationary and mobile) detection and collision avoidance. The important thing is you want this all encapsulated and not dependent of external infrastructure. The whole notion that it has to be an electric car is really tangential to real problems.
You are trying way too hard to find faults in what I said and you are also making weird assumptions based on knowledge you don't have (like the detection and collision avoidance) and you also don't need to worry about processing power or the advanced sensors as these already exist and a lot of money is being put into developing them even further together with neural networking.

The technology to solve issues like missing signs and stuff like that exists already (think "wireless" and "embedded chips") which can be placed alongside the road and in the road itself (it's what people call now "smart roads"). It's just too expensive to implement it full scale today. Once mass production of standardized technology begins things will start changing fast just like how charging stations for electric cars are becoming common place today when just a few years ago you could barely find one.

If you want a more concrete answer from me: by 2025 we'll see many places implement lanes just for autonomous vehicles (cars, taxi, buses, etc) and many important highways will also be ready for this technology.

The idea is that, by 2025, 1 in 10 cars to be able to use this technology. By 2050 we should have the infrastructure completely redesigned for autonomous cars in mind (at least in first world countries and in some other smaller ones) and such cars should be more common than regular ones. The only things that could slow this down are slow legislation changes (which is so far doing ok) and the currently unknown costs for the infrastructure (no standards yet)
 
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intoPCsince94

Ford intends on having a fully autonomous vehicle ready for commercial production by 2021.

Everyone is in a mad dash to be the first / best autonomous car company. Whoever gets there first will disrupt the car industry on a major level.

My kid is 9 right now. I fully anticipate that he won't own a vehicle the same way that I have owned vehicles my whole life. He'll simply call on a car when he needs to use one and it'll come pick him up
That would be so sad :( Never owning a car. No personal freedom. Looks like dark days ahead. I doubt that it will ever come in our lifetime. Maybe some systems in the city, like a ride at Disneyland, but not on freeways at 70 MPH.
 
I

intoPCsince94

Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
Mostly electric cars by 2025 could be possible. But autonomous cars by 2025 -- not likely other than some city trial runs. Seems they forgot to ask if people are willing to trust a cars computer to drive them at 70 MPH down the freeway. Bad enough are steering is electric now and the throttle -- scary enough. I don't want the car to decide when to brake. As for blind-side monitors, it is called adjusting your mirrors. Safer driving -- try drivers training, like we had in the old days. Actually learn about cars. Learn the difference between fwd and rwd. I do not want for having the government decide where I can drive, when I can drive and be in a nanny-mobile.
 

Steed

TS Booster
Look, its not a matter of if, but of when. Whenever huge amounts of money are pushed behind a certain type of technology, it is gauranteed that we will get it. So while it may not happen in the next 5 years, I am thinking that in the 10 to 15 year scale it will be possible. Most of the luxury auto makers are already moving to electric only. Look at BMW for example. I am pretty sure that the big auto makers will collaborate to bend the goverments arm to make the necessarily changes happen, whether the public likes it or not. Electrification of Vehicles is just one aspect of autonomy.
 

Patriot Games

TS Rookie
Well let's start with some very basics, first electric vehicles (EV's) have a very serious problem as today there is only 39m tons of lithium on the face of the earth, lithium is a rare earth metal, it is very scarce and as supply dwindles prices will sky rocket. We mine 730,000 tons a year today, it is not cost effective to increase this production, of this 730,000 tons only 40% (percent) is allocated to electric vehicle batteries, this 40% equals about 400,000 electric vehicles per year for the entire world. We only have enough lithium for 50 years at best and only enough for 400,000 cars a year and were out of this rare earth metal and it will get more and more expensive the less and less exist, can you imagine $30k to $50k added to car costs because your using the last ton of lithium on earth! Lithium is used for manufacturing grease, cell phone batteries, laptop and tablet batteries, batteries for tools and flashlight use, lithium is used in glass and the manufacturing of products. Once the 39m tons is gone lithium batteries are gone, there is technology being sought to extend cycle time and decrease charging time all using lithium as there base substance but there are no known technologies to replace lithium batteries today, Elon Musk was quoted as saying this may be the end of electric vehicles unless some other substance is found which allows electrons to flow between positive and negative and back again by charging. Lithium is not recycle able!

Now for those internal combustion naysayers let's talk about crude oil, you like to fly, want manufactured goods shipped from cheap foreign countries, like your department stores stocked, a good supply of food and drink at your local restaurant or bar, do you want a well stocked grocery store, and like that home you live in or products manufactured from natural resources? Well a 42 gallon barrel of crude oil breaks down into various products which include kerosene, diesel fuel, three common grades of gasoline, Jet A fuel, grease, solvents, etc. In order to go cross country on a jet a 737 - 200 requires roughly 4700 gallons of Jet A, however a 42 gallon barrel of oil creates 0.40 gallons of Jet A per barrel, so we want to fly but not burn gas or diesel in internal combustion engines, but we produce 241,000 gallons of gasoline and almost 115,000 gallons of diesel to produce 4700 gallons of JET A FUEL, so without internal combustion engines are we going back to the 1870's and pouring gasoline in trenches to get rid of it, or is it practical to build say massive 200 square mile tank farms to store gas and diesel in to make Jet A fuel for transportation by air, but deny the use of cars, trucks, equipment and ships? Right now we have a balance in what a barrel of crude oil produces and how the by products are used! Think about it? Do we have alternatives to jet travel? Do we go back to coal powered ships like the Titanic? Or sail across the Atlantic ocean like our ancestors? We also use Jet A in our military planes! How do you get rid of product from crude refining you don't want?

Now let's talk about cars as most of us own vehicles we have bought new or used, we buy depending on credit and financial ability something for transportation, I have a daughter at college who drives about 18 miles per day, 7 days per week, at current pace she travels 540 miles per month, her car costs us $143 per month on a 4 year note and her insurance is about $160 per month as an under 25 driver, now maintenance runs about $40 per month or less, but for her to use rideshare services at college it would cost $22 per day or $660 per month (Remember the $2 dollar technology fee per ride), none of us are wealthy enough to afford to pay that kind of money for transportation! The current rideshare model currently used is to cheap for Uber, Lyft and the other companies fighting for space in an autonomous car world have not figured out the cost! I talked to a ride share driver today in a little cheap economy vehicle who is going almost 8,000 miles a month on a trajectory to do almost 95,000 miles a year, he drives 56 to 60 hours a week on the app and figures his car costs him around $460 a week in depreciation, cost, maintenance, gas, insurance and car washes. Take this same car and run it around the clock 24 hours a day and the car is worthless in 10 to 11 months!
 

ddferrari

TS Maniac
I would suggest the author spend a little time in the history books. The first powered flight in 1903 to the first moon landing in 1969. There is plenty of evidence that clearly shows technological achievements are rapidly increasing and the implementation of AI in all sorts of different applications. We may soon see that surrounding infrastructure will have no bearing on the ability of autonomous vehicles and with the recent leap forward in electric vehicles, it won't be far behind. A realistic figure? 10-15 years is certainly not out of reach with some full scale implementations in a slightly shorter period. Keep in mind, you are only seeing what is being displayed to the public. DARPA has been well ahead of the curve and has heavily classified their best discoveries. Today's drones are only a shadow of the current fleet the military uses and remote aircraft function and navigation has been around for well over a decade.
Despite the rumors, history doesn't always repeat itself. What else are the loving governments of our world going to abolish to protect us from our precious selves? Fast food? Motorcycles? Red Bull?

This is nothing but a cash grab, plain and simple. Stop reading Philip K D ick. More advanced doesn't always equal "better". Just ask any teenager- who will answer you via text because they can't make eye contact or carry a conversation.
 
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ChrisH1

TS Addict
Well let's start with some very basics, first electric vehicles (EV's) have a very serious problem as today there is only 39m tons of lithium on the face of the earth, lithium is a rare earth metal, it is very scarce and as supply dwindles prices will sky rocket. We mine 730,000 tons a year today, it is not cost effective to increase this production, of this 730,000 tons only 40% (percent) is allocated to electric vehicle batteries, this 40% equals about 400,000 electric vehicles per year for the entire world. We only have enough lithium for 50 years at best and only enough for 400,000 cars a year and were out of this rare earth metal and it will get more and more expensive the less and less exist, can you imagine $30k to $50k added to car costs because your using the last ton of lithium on earth!

----

39m tons seems about right for reserves, but is in no way all the lithium "on the face of the earth". The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion tonnes. Extraction from brine is possible, though expensive. We do mine about 730k tons per year, and I'm happy to take your figure of 40% going to electric cars without checking. But electric car batteries use less lithium than you think.

"It is estimated that there’s about 63 kg of lithium in a 70 kWh Tesla Model S battery pack, which weighs over 1,000 lbs (~453 kg)." https://electrek.co/2016/11/01/breakdown-raw-materials-tesla-batteries-possible-bottleneck/

Let's overestimate it a bit and call it an easy 1kg per kWh as it makes the calculations easy, and let's assume all battery packs are 100kWh, which they certainly aren't (model 3 is going to be ~ 60). That gives us enough for about 3 million cars per year.

"Lithium is not recycle able!" - oh? Whyever not? Anything is recyclable, it's just that often it's not cost-effective to do so. However, Tesla batteries certainly are recyclable, and will be. https://www.tesla.com/en_AU/blog/teslas-closed-loop-battery-recycling-program?redirect=no . Interestingly, the main reason for this is to recover the cobalt, which is the most expensive component. But the lithium gets recycled too.

Technology and human endeavour marches on. My bet is, either someone will figure out a way of getting lithium out of seawater cost-effectively, or new reserves will be found (Afganistan looking good), or a new battery technology will move in (sodium-sulfur looks good, aluminium would be very good).
 

Axiarus

TS Evangelist
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, autonomous vehicles can not work unless market saturation is at or very near the 100% mark, because until that day, the biggest variable for autonomous vehicles are the other non autonomous vehicles on the road which is an unpredictable factor that is unaccountable for. The technology now is a good start, but it's just not ready, in 10 years it may achieve an acceptable level of abilities, but still too many vehicles will be on the road that predate the technology. Figure a good 20 years after it becomes mandatory on all new production vehicles before it can actually go live and be trusted.

Who said anything about a few years? But expecting significant advancements in autonomous cars by 2025 is very realistic. The same with electric cars. These two technologies go hand in hand.
The technology might be good by 2025, but it's still not going to help with the non autonomous vehicles still on the roads.

Electric vehicles and autonomy has nothing to do with one another, all the same controls are present on both gas and electric vehicles, most gas cars are all electrically controlled already and can be controlled remotely, they just need the software and cameras to do so. The first autonomous vehicles were gas powered, but they had to use servos and actuators for the controls, nothing outrageously complicated.
I don't see why having non-auto's on the road with autos is a problem. Why do people think that they can out think/reaction time a computer?
 
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