Top Silicon Valley investor explains why he is sceptical about driverless cars

Bill Gurley is a board member and investor in Uber. But he isn’t bullish on the driverless cars that companies like Google are creating. (Google Ventures led a big funding round in Uber).

Gurley believes there will be too many errors with the technology, and if there are errors while driving fast, the results will be catastrophic. He believes people will be much more forgiving of human errors than machine errors that result in fatal crashes.

“There’s a science where people talk about what percentage of time you need a product to work versus not work,” Gurley explains. “Like the amount of up time [versus down time] on a website.” That concept, where there’s almost no error in technology, is referred to as “four nines.”

“For a machine to be out there that weighs three tons moving around at that kind of speed, it would need to have at least four nines,” says Gurley. “Because an error would be catastrophic. I think we’re a long way off on that [faultless driving technology].”

He thinks driverless cars are, in part, a ploy by big tech companies to distract journalists. Gurley referred to Brad Stone’s book about Amazon, The Everything Store, where he indicated that Amazon’s drones were primarily a PR stunt.

But if and when the world becomes ready for driverless cars, Gurley believes they will launch with dedicated lanes on highways and roads.

“I think Uber is great first step,” says Gurley. “The driver is a professional driver who is focused on the task at hand.”

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