How far away are autonomous cars? On this episode of "The 5," recorded on Oct. 21, Fool contributors Travis Hoium, Jason Hall, and Taylor Carmichael discuss the immediate future of Waymo and Cruise, the autonomous divisions of Alphabet (GOOG -3.29%) (GOOGL -2.75%) and General Motors (GE -2.36%), respectively.
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Taylor Carmichael: How far away do you think the self-driving cars are? I keep thinking its like a decade away. Do you think it's closer than that?
Travis Hoium: They're in the field. Waymo and Cruise are licensed in or have permits in the state of California to operate with commercial customers. I don't believe either of them are using paying customers at this point. GM is actually doing the validation testing for their Cruise Origin vehicle right now. That is something that is on the way. I believe 2023 is when that would actually launch, Dubai has signed a big deal with Cruise to be an autonomous service there. But I think in the next couple of years, we're going to see autonomous ridesharing be prevalent at least in some of these early locations. Phoenix has been a spot that Waymo has used. San Francisco, Pittsburgh has some technology going on there, there's some things going on in Austin. There are going to be a handful of cities where this is going to roll out first, but I would be surprised if it's not within the next 12-24 months.
Jason Hall: It's going to be different from place to place, so that's the thing, right?
Hall: It's going to take a long time before we see it fully rolled out. But it's happening and it's just pretty quick, Travis, like you said.
Hoium: Yeah, it's going to be in a certain urban areas. I think the best analogy is Uber's launch. Uber would go city by city, and they actually initially had an app for each city. I think that would be a good analogy.
Hall: To be clear, just their original rideshare business, right?
Hoium: Correct, the original Uber black car rideshare business, they would just do one city at a time. I live in Minneapolis, there would be an Uber Minneapolis app that did not talk to the other apps, at least for a period of time. I think that would be a good way to think about it. If you go to San Francisco in two years, you might be able to get on a Cruise Origin and ride around. Here in Minneapolis, probably not going to be around for five-10 years. It's going to be a case-by-case basis.
Carmichael: Are they still requiring a driver to be in the car as they do it or not?
Hoium: No, not anymore. At least Cruise and Waymo, there's a handful of other companies who are beyond that point. There's a delivery company called Nero that can deliver groceries and things like that without a driver as well. All these things are coming. They're here in certain places, they're just not really widely commercially available. I think that rollout is going to happen a lot faster than people think.
Carmichael: The other question, what about regulation? Is this a state-by-state thing? Is this a federal regulation thing? Does there need to be a go-ahead from the government before this happens or is it more of a wild west?
Hall: All of the above, right, Travis?
Hoium: It's probably all of the above. Right now, California has its own regulatory infrastructure. That's who I see leading the space and that's pretty typical in a lot of products. I think that will be the case for the foreseeable future. There's a new head of the NHT-NTHSB, I'm going to get the acronym wrong.
Hall: NTSB, National Transportation Safety Bureau.
Hoium: Yes, who, I think, has their eye on higher autonomous vehicles and the regulations behind that. That infrastructure is not fully built out yet, it will be before too long. But I think California would be the place to look first.