Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Pumps the Brakes on Autonomous Vehicles

October 28, 2019, 5:16 PM UTC

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is merging out of the fast lane when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

Once an avid evangelist and proponent for so-called Level 5 cars—vehicles that are completely self-driving, not requiring the driver to be in control at any time—Wozniak now says he has largely abandoned hope of the concept happening anytime soon.

“I stepped way back [on] this idea of Level 5. I’ve really given up,” Wozniak said at the J.D. Power Auto Revolution conference in Las Vegas last week. “I don’t even know if that will happen in my lifetime.”

Level 5 autonomous vehicles are the stuff of science fiction in many ways. They wouldn’t have steering wheels and could read and react to road conditions much like a human does. But today’s A.I. can’t do that, says Woz, who has a lot of opinions about the auto industry.

Human drivers can quickly assess changes, like debris in the road or detours or other unexpected events. Today’s self driving cars aren’t there yet.

“What we’ve done is we’ve misled the public into thinking this car is going to be like a human brain, to be able to really figure out new things and say, ‘Here’s something I hadn’t seen before, but I know what’s going on here, and here’s how I should handle it,'” Wozniak said. “A human can do that.”

While he’s downshifting his enthusiasm over Level 5 cars, Wozniak did say he feels safe with the current level of self-driving systems, which have human drivers as backups.

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