According to McKinsey & Co, over the past decade, investors have invested about $330 billion in 2,000 mobile companies, two-thirds of which are focused on AV technology and smart mobility.

The future of self-driving cars isn’t set in stone, but those who have been following them closely immediately noticed that the flashy announcements and grandiose projects were fantasy, said Haider Radha, director of Michigan State University’s Division of Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety.

“Back in 2017, there was a lot of enthusiasm for AV technology and there was a lot of buzz from a lot of the major players, obviously the Big Three, particularly Ford and GM,” Radha said. “I think after a while the reality really started to set in that we’re really not that close to developing truly driverless, safe cars in that short amount of time.”

In Michigan, arguably the country’s AV technology capital next to Silicon Valley, that was difficult to reckon with. However, the work done by the private and public sectors, and the millions of dollars invested by the state in AV-related projects, it was not for nothingsaid Trevor Paul, the state’s chief mobility officer.

“I’m not going to say it’s a surprise where we’re at,” Paul said. “Complex problems don’t lend themselves to simple solutions, and autonomous driving is one of the most complex problems you can face in today’s world.”

The concept of fully self-driving cars is getting all the attention, but it’s no longer driving AV technology, Paul said.

Companies have moved from cash-burning full autonomy to incremental improvements to advanced driver assistance systems. Features such as hands-free driving on select freeways, lane keeping and adaptive cruise control have been implemented by Tesla, GM, Ford and other automakers.

“I would say that much of the innovation and deployment in the real world has been regime change,” Paul said. “The other change is that feature after feature has moved away from full autonomy at level 5.”

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