Comment Robot taxis in San Francisco prove: America is driving the autonomous driving title. Germany’s old auto empire has already fallen behind.
San Francisco, just after 5 a.m. A white car with an unusual roof structure pulls up in front of me at an intersection. A woman in the back seat, her head bent over her phone. In the driver’s seat in front of her: No one. The traffic light turns green and the car, as if guided by an invisible hand, slowly picks up speed and turns the corner.
What is happening before my eyes is nothing but a small revolution. Because with a total of 80 robot taxis driving the streets of San Francisco since the beginning of the year, that won’t last long. The two competing companies already have thousands of vehicles ready to go and are awaiting approval to unleash their robot armies in additional cities, first in the U.S. and later around the world.
Here in Germany, the first driverless cars should be rolling into city centers this year. This was made possible by an unprecedented change in road traffic legislation, which the old federal government passed in the summer of 2021 and which generally allows for autonomous driving, albeit initially with a safety driver.
Despite extensive political support, it will still be years before German car manufacturers get their own robot taxis on the road. Reason: Vehicles are rolling computers, 15 PCs to be exact. That’s the computing power a robotaxis needs to safely maneuver the streets.
We Germans may make great cars, but we can’t make computers. So I fear this race for the future is decided before it even starts.
Our author is a blogger and digital expert. He alternates here with start-up founder Felicia Kuferum.
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