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Why self-driving isn’t a race and cars aren’t going anywhere

One of the most fun things about my old life as a journalist was sniffing out the truth behind the headlines, especially around autonomous vehicles. On this episode of the No Parking Podcast, Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid joined Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky and me to cut through the hype and deconstruct our favorite myths about autonomy.

Sam isn’t just an analyst. He’s a former automotive engineer, podcaster and one of the best automotive journalists out there—a pretty rare combination. But he’s best known as the father of Navigant’s AV sector leaderboard, the most popular ranking of the world’s major autonomous vehicle efforts, which tracks a lot more than technology. Manufacturing, go-to-market, and execution strategies are all in there, which makes for some surprises and a lot of debate whenever the rankings change.

How did we come up with our favorite myths? I asked for submissions across my social media channels, and my transportation-obsessed audience did not disappoint, posting hundreds of suggestions with hours.

Robotaxis will arrive in 2020! You will never own a car again! Tesla is in the lead! Crashes will be eliminated! We need sensors in our roads!

One could write 10,000 words about any of these, but we wanted to focus on the worst misinformation and exaggeration out there, and we were really shooting for 45 minutes, so we kept it…maybe not short, but definitely sweet.

Sam had some great lines, especially about the notion that progress toward autonomy will be exponential.

“It depends on which part of the curve you’re looking at and how far you’re zooming out or in. It’s the classic case of, ‘Tell me which side of the argument you’re on, and I’ll give the statistics to prove that you’re right.’”

But everyone agreed on the future of car ownership.

“They’re going to pull my Miata out of my cold, dead hands,” said Sam.

Bryan smiled. “Ownership is not going away, ever. Or at least anytime soon.”

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