Autonomous driving is 'happening', but slower than expected

To the believers, the oft-promised autonomous car revolution is "clearly happening" — they point to the myriad displays at the Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas that defy the industry's bad headlines.

"Companies are deploying robotaxis in larger scale than before and in more cities," insisted Kersten Heineke, partner and codirector of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility.

Even "in times where money is scarce...we're clearly progressing. It just takes a bit longer than we were expecting three or five years ago."

And while "there's nothing flashy" at this year's CES, there are noted improvements "in crucial technologies" on show, he said.

Still the headwinds — and doubts — are there, with venture capital harder to secure and a series of mishaps grabbing attention, even if some data demonstrates that fears are not merited.

 Cameras, lasers and 3D 

The focus now is on safety.

From long-established companies to young start-ups, the aisles at CES are brimming with innovations in 3D vision, night vision, driver fatigue detectors and hand-on-wheel detection.

"Technology saves lives" by improving road safety, said Christophe Perillat, head of the French Valeo group.

He believes that by 2030, 90 percent of vehicles produced worldwide will be equipped with driver assistance systems, and half of those will be level 2 and 2+, with a few million at level 3 or 4.

This refers to the industry standard set by the trade association SAE International that gauges a vehicle's degree of automation, from level 0 to level 5.

The latter level, considered the equivalent of a human driver, seems out of reach at this stage.

"The ability for a consumer to buy a car that will drive...

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