Even the Guy Who Started a Church Worshipping A.I. Is Pulling Back on Driverless Car Gospel

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled Even the Guy Who Started a Church Worshipping A.I. Is Pulling Back on Driverless Car Gospel
Photo: AP

Anthony Levandowski, the guy you may recall from the center of the Waymo and Uber lawsuit over autonomous vehicle I.P., the radical who started a church worshipping an A.I. god, the person who allegedly intentionally modified Google’s driverless car fleet to take them where they weren’t permitted only to get into a crash, injure a co-worker, and allegedly covered it up, that freaking guy, is now taking a cautious approach to autonomous vehicles.

Tech website The Information covered a panel discussion featuring Levandowski and summarized the bit as follows, noting that Levandowski is turning down the dial on driverless car hype:

Today, Mr. Levandowski, along with several dozen employees at Pronto AI, is taking a more gradual approach to developing autonomous driving features instead of pushing for “fully” automated vehicles. That is, unlike Waymo, Aurora and Voyage, he is working on a semi-automated system that would keep the human driver in the vehicle but make driving easier and less stressful.


Yes, you’re reading that right. The guy who supposedly said that self-driving cars were “going to change the world, and a billion [dollars] was the minimum of what he deserved” is now working on cars that can’t even drive themselves.

Yes, the guy who once bloviated:

“If it is your job to advance technology, safety cannot be your No. 1 concern,” Levandowski told me. “If it is, you’ll never do anything. It’s always safer to leave the car in the driveway. You’ll never learn from a real mistake.”


...is now taking “a more gradual approach” to automated vehicles, now that he has already injured a colleague and been embroiled in a $1.85 billion lawsuit trying the not-cautious approach.

You know what? Good for Levandowski. Another batshit thing he once said was:

“I don’t even know why we study history. It’s entertaining, I guess—the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and stuff like that. But what already happened doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to know that history to build on what they made. In technology, all that matters is tomorrow.”


That’s really not an out-there attitude from a hell of a lot of Silicon Valley, to be fair.

In any case, perhaps this is another belief he has reconsidered. It is, in fact, important to learn from one’s mistakes, and mistakes by previous members of our society, which involves studying the past. Maybe he has finally decided it is, in fact, not only tomorrow that matters, but yesterday, and the day before that, and the day you crashed a self-driving car causing your co-worker to need multiple back surgeries. Maybe the past is important, and so are the $120 million you collected from the company you worked for pledging to invent self-driving cars. In the past.