Money is flooding into autonomous car start-ups. For the sector’s evangelists, questions about business models miss the point
It is a breezy spring day in Willows, California, and a motley collection of cars is preparing to take on the winding course at the Thunderhill Raceway. But unlike most auto races, this isn’t a test of the skill of the person sitting behind the wheel. These cars are driving themselves. The entrants in the Self Racing Cars challenge range from navigation technology start-ups and component suppliers to budding software companies and students. In a narrow sense, the race is a failure: after two days of practice, most teams never manage to make it around the course fully autonomously.Still, there is electricity in the air. Programmers buzzing from energy drinks make tweaks to their codes while investors stroll in the parking lot to check on their companies. Self-driving cars are the hottest thing in Silicon Valley, and this race is a way for the smallest, boldest start-ups to show their stuff.
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