Pragmatism prevails as robotaxi concepts near deployment

The robotaxi sector is past generating hype; it is now eyeing means to generate revenue. By Freddie Holmes

Robotaxis have become illustrative of what is known as the Hype Cycle. This describes how expectations rise and fall over time as a new technology matures. Bold promises made early on may fail to materialise in the timeline first described, at which point expectations, and interest, will inevitably slump. The expression was first coined by research firm Gartner, and transitions from optimism and pessimism to productivity.

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Interest in robotaxis exploded in the mid-2010s, peaking between 2014 and 2018. Various start-ups emerged and were bought out in billion-dollar deals, and the industry underwent a prolonged period of consolidation. In essence, it was an exercise in gathering the assets needed to support future robotaxi services.

Lofty expectations for driverless cars mellowed during 2019 and 2020 as the industry—and consumers—came to terms with the fact that the robotaxi would not be a quick win. Gartner’s Hype Cycle defines this lull as the ‘trough of disillusionment’, which…