Pride is Dooming the Driverless Vehicle Industry-Leadership Needs to Step Up

Michael DeKort
5 min readAug 15, 2021


In the four years that I have now been trying to nudge the industry into using DoD/aerospace simulation technology to save itself, future drivers, and the public from being needless test subjects, I have seen an evolution of thought. Through the reading of articles in the news, LinkedIn and elsewhere, as well as talking to people in the trenches at the autonomous vehicle makers and OEMs, I can see that evolution. (It is evident in rushes to IPOs and SPACs, mergers, buyouts, bankruptcies, timeline extensions and stating things were tougher than they thought.)

The first phase is becoming aware of the futility of the current development approach. The next phase, and the one humanity usually handles very poorly, is accepting it and acknowledging it. Without that the situation cannot be mended. The problem here of course is pride, especially among leadership. That pride drives people to double-down on their flawed efforts because they do not want to be embarrassed, thought of in a lesser light, and in some cases, lose their jobs and high income. And in the case not only never saving the lives they say they want to save but taking it needlessly through the use of human Guinea pigs. So, they press on toward bankruptcy hoping for a miracle, SPAC or IPO cash out before the world sees the naked emperor. The question becomes, how do we reverse this pattern?

I am aware that my direct and even confrontational approach can be off-putting. That can cause the opposite effect of my intend goal. And to be frank, it doesn’t help me or my company much. So why do it? For starters I am not a masochist or a martyr. The problem is people in groups and echo chambers rarely undertake grass roots paradigm shifts. The thought prevailing thought is that if you get inside and become part of the group you can influence change. Yes, you can influence small course corrections. But not paradigm shifts. Paradigm shifts require acknowledgement and acceptance your core approaches or technology are wrong. If you look at human history, you will see those situations require an external force or interventions. Whether family units, sports teams, companies, tribes, or governments. Those interventions, unfortunately, usually require a progressively building pattern of tragedies, press coverage and laws. All because of pride. This is where we are in the autonomous vehicle industry. I have talked to folks in most of these companies. They get it. The problem is they have families, jobs, like what they do and know they cannot effect the change needed to fix this. The folks that can fix this, leadership in the companies, investment groups etc, are too prideful to acknowledge it and act accordingly.

This is why leadership at companies like Cruise, Waymo, Argo Aurora etc and the OEMs need to be the ones to step up and save everyone concerned. (I didn’t mention Tesla because I am not so sure they are so disrespected now it would not have enough of an impact.) If just one of them did this the ripple effect would be immediate. Other AV makers, OEMs, suppliers, the press, governments, consultants etc would all follow suit in the blink of an eye.

(I would like to note that USDoT VOICES gets all of this. More on that below.)

Areas to Resolve

· Machine Learning, more specifically General Learning is not where it needs to be to be. While work on this will continue, the plan will be to either not field systems until that point arrives or implement a process that leverages the general learning capabilities that do exist augmented with more of a rules-based approach and restricted ODDs.

· No one has the ability to spend the time, money or lives required by relying on the real-world to train the systems, even if general learning approaches were where they need to be. That means over 99.9% of the development and testing needs to be in simulation. That simulation will be informed and validated by the real-world.

· The gaming-based simulation technology being used is not adequate to meet the needs of development and testing. It does not have the real-time capabilities or modeling fidelity required. A shift to aerospace/DoD simulation technology and modeling approaches will be needed.

Does this paradigm shift make all of this easy and cheap? No. What it does do is move the possibility of success from impossible to doable from a time, cost and safety POV. Many companies may still want to pool together to work for the greater good. Or simply live with limited ODDs and locations.

More detail here

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry can be Saved by doing the Opposite of what is being done now to create this technology


Autonomous Vehicle Industry’s Self-Inflicted and Avoidable Collapse — Ongoing Update


USDOT introduces VOICES Proof of Concept for Autonomous Vehicle Industry-A Paradigm Shift?


SAE Autonomous Vehicle Engineering Magazine — Simulation’s Next Generation


Consumer Reports, “safety experts”, the government, most of the press and the driverless vehicle industry want us to believe Tesla is the only one using needless human Guinea pigs


My name is Michael DeKort — I am a former system engineer, engineering and program manager for Lockheed Martin. I worked in aircraft simulation, the software engineering manager for all of NORAD, the Aegis Weapon System, and on C4ISR for DHS.

Industry Participation — Air and Ground

- Founder SAE On-Road Autonomous Driving Simulation Task Force

- Member SAE ORAD Verification and Validation Task Force

- Member UNECE WP.29 SG2 Virtual Testing

- Stakeholder USDOT VOICES (Virtual Open Innovation Collaborative Environment for Safety)

- Member SAE G-34 / EUROCAE WG-114 Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

- Member CIVATAglobal — Civic Air Transport Association

- Stakeholder for UL4600 — Creating AV Safety Guidelines

- Member of the IEEE Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Systems Policy Committee

- Presented the IEEE Barus Ethics Award for Post 9/11 DoD/DHS Whistleblowing Efforts



Michael DeKort

Non-Tribal Truth Seeker-IEEE Barus Ethics Award/9–11 Whistleblower-Aerospace/DoD Systems Engineer/Member SAE Autonomy and eVTOL development V&V & Simulation

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