Driverless cars at least a decade away, says Uber boss

Tetsuya Lijima from Nissan giving a demonstration around the roads of east London of a prototype Nissan Leaf driverless car.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of taxi firm Uber, has predicted that driverless cars are at least 10 years away, despite technology moving at a rapid pace. The ride-hailing app, which is currently facing legal claims regarding its classification as a taxi service, has sunk millions into developing autonomous vehicles.

Speaking at a tech conference in Munich, Germany, Khosrowshahi said he expected a wait of 10-15 years for 'fully autonomous' cars. He blamed the need for millimetre-perfect mapping of cities, as well as the high cost of the sophisticated sensors necessary for safe, driverless vehicles.

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"The road from now to full autonomous is going to take a significant amount of work," said Khosrowshahi. "We map every city to three centimetres, that takes a huge amount of effort and data, and sensor tech has to come down very significantly.

"Full autonomy, I think we're talking 10 to 15 years."

Uber has been trialling its own driverless tech for some years, putting it at the forefront of the movement along with Google's Waymo. The Silicon Valley internet giant is set to start tests on a driverless taxi with no backup driver later in 2018.

Google has not offered a timeline, but says on the Waymo website: "Our fully self-driving vehicles began test-driving [in 2017] on public roads without anyone in the driver's seat. Soon, members of the public will get to use these vehicles in their daily lives."

Khosrowshahi's presence in Munich drew crowds of protesting taxi drivers. Uber has been facing protests from traditional cabbies for some time, and is also battling local authorities in rows over working conditions.

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