Don't buy the buzz! Driverless vehicles headed over a cliff

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A key element of trend forecasting is “Don’t buy the buzz.”

Just go back to the dot.com years of the 1990s, when the Geek World hit center stage. 

Speaking the language of their world, which made little actual, economic or common sense in the real world, geeks sold their “We know best, and you know nothing of the new techno order.” Trillions were invested and trillions were lost when the empty dot.com bubble finally exploded. Unfortunately, despite our warnings, some buyers go right through the stop sign, skipping taking any precautions. Today, that same breed of Silicon Valley con men (and women) has been selling nonstop hype about the coming New Age of Autonomous Vehicles. These cars drive you; you don’t drive them.

So powerful is the buzz that hundreds of billions are being invested by the tech and auto industries.

But it’s a driverless race to nowhere.

Publisher’s Note: The Trends Research Institute does not provide financial advice; we forecast trends that identify favorable or unfavorable investment and profit opportunities. The mantra that driverless cars will become the norm by 2030 is not supported by our trend-forecasting data. Investors should be wary of automakers' propensity to overpromise and underdeliver.

As Trends Journal subscribers know, we didn’t buy the buzz and have held that stance since 2015. Instead, we forecast that the literal smoke and mirrors of driverless vehicles do not measure up to hard reality. In fact, one of our Top Trends for 2018 was “Driverless Car Cliff.” We said, “Investors and auto-industry watchers will learn just how many twists, turns, bumps and detours are along the road to vehicles that drive themselves.”

Our forecast was ignored by most media. Now, though, after a driverless Uber car struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, AZ, events have sped past the hype. Not only are the media reporting on autonomous vehicles’ limitations, but Uber and even Toyota have suspended testing of driverless cars. And Nvidia, the tech company that produces self-driving computing platforms for Uber and other companies, has suspended tests of its technology on public roads.

Moreover, there already are 125 bills pending in 33 states, introduced since January of this year, to regulate autonomous vehicles. And now, with the death in Tempe, the number of bills being considered to regulate this new trend in transportation certainly will increase.

The auto industry is beset with millions of recalls that cost billions. The industry can't get ignition switches to work, brakes to work, accelerators to work, doors to lock and unlock, or prevent air bags from exploding and it’s telling the world a driverless car is just around the corner? 

TREND FORECAST: We maintain our general forecast: "Autonomous vehicles specifically engineered for mining, trucking, city busing... moving people or cargo from linear point A to point B on specific routes... is the near/midterm future of driverless vehicles."

But the Arizona fatality and other mishaps have flashed the brights on limitations and dangers of autonomous vehicles. They’re just not coming to the freeway and Main Street any time soon.

Imagine: With people racing to work, weaving in and out of traffic and trying to beat the light, how will driverless vehicles cope in city traffic? Or with poor road conditions?

The Arizona incident surely will accelerate legal, legislative and insurance challenges. Prototype development will remain in park as much more stringent safety mechanisms are thoroughly tested. Litigation possibilities alone are threatening enough to instill caution in the most reckless buyers of the auto-auto buzz.

Finally, studies and fact-based findings from scientists, engineers and technologists – who’ve objectively identified the fallacies and dangers about self-drivers (previously ignored by the media) – will now have a more prominent and influential voice. For now, the brakes have been applied.