Apple Co-Founder Not Sold on Self-Driving Vehicles

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed last week that he doesn’t believe fully self-driving cars are possible in the near future.

Wozniak told CNBC in a recent interview he hoped Apple would be first to launch a self-driving car, but now he feels that the industry is quite some time away from this capability. His sentiment towards this technology came after his ownership experience with Teslas.

The Apple co-founder continuously upgraded his Tesla with hopes that the company’s Autopilot system would flourish into a genuinely hands-free driving system. Although Wozniak stated he still enjoys driving his Tesla, he also said the company has been making too many mistakes.

For example, this March Tesla issued the largest recall in its history. This recall involved power-steering systems in 123,000 Model S sedans. Tesla stated the five bolts responsible for holding the power-steering motor in place could corrode, break, or come loose, which could result in the loss of power steering. The company tried to soften the blow by stating the problem was rare and most likely to happen in colder areas that use a specific kind of salt to lessen the amount of ice and snow on the road.  

Tesla also faced controversy over a fatal crash involving their Model X vehicle that crashed into a highway barrier in Mountain View, California. The Autopilot system was engaged during the accident and the victims wife said he had complained about the system not working properly near the area where the crash occurred.

The company addressed statistics that indicate fatal accidents are 3.7 times less likely to happen in Tesla vehicles that have Autopilot than in other vehicles. However, this crash highlights the difficulties automakers face as the industry slowly shifts toward autonomous vehicles.

Despite these incidents, Tesla claims it will begin to roll out its first chip to enable its Full Self Drive mode next year. Yet shortly after this announcement, the electric-car maker dropped the option from its online configurator claiming this option will be “off the menu” after it caused mass confusion for a week. The option has yet to return over a month later.

Instead of a fully self-driving car, Wozniak believes the near-term future will instead be “assistive-driving” technology. These systems will countdown red lights, warn drivers of vehicles that approach an intersection and others will help avoid some common crashes that occur today. The former Apple executive also stated today’s roads and infrastructure would not be able to handle self-driving cars as the majority as humans build roads today, who are “not as good as nature and mathematics and even evolution.”