As 2018 dawned, expectations for self-driving vehicles were sky-high:
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- Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, was testing fully driverless cars and preparing for a commercial launch in the Phoenix area.
- Uber was racking up millions of test miles for its own cars.
- Tesla was selling a “full self-driving” upgrade for its vehicles—though the feature wasn’t actually shipping yet. Several times in 2016, CEO Elon Musk predicted that the technology would be ready in about two years.
Self-driving technology seemed to be right around the corner. But then the industry was battered by bad news.
In March, Uber was forced to drastically scale back its testing activities after an Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The same month, a Tesla customer died when his Autopilot-enabled Model X car slammed into a concrete lane divider.