Self-driving car services are popping up all over the country. But they are not what they seem.

The latest example is the upgraded service in Las Vegas from ride-hailing company Lyft.

On Tuesday, the company said it will allow users to welcome a new kind of self-driving car on and around the Las Vegas Strip, building on a similar service it has offered in the city for the past four years. But the news comes with a significant caveat: These cars will be driven by two drivers, known in the industry as safety drivers, who will take control of the car if anything goes wrong.

Technology and the auto industry have spent most of the last decade promising cars that will drive themselves on the streets. But it will be many years—perhaps even decades—before truly autonomous vehicles become commonplace. While leading companies have made significant progress, bringing the technology to the masses remains a painstaking process.

“No autonomous system is ready for safe, large-scale deployment in urban environments,” said Schuyler Cullen, who led a team studying autonomous driving at South Korean tech giant Samsung and now runs a startup company. a new kind of camera for self-driving cars.

Earlier this year, three other companies introduced self-driving services in San Francisco, Miami and Austin, Texas. All told, these services will not include safety drivers. And in at least some cases, these cars now operate without drivers. But they are available only to a few riders, many of whom are friends or relatives of company employees.

Reporters are prohibited from using these services without a driver.

Currently, only one fully public service operates without security drivers. Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company, offers driverless services in suburban Phoenix, which has wide roads, predictable weather and few pedestrians.

Even when new services roll out to places like San Francisco, they come with significant caveats. They will only be available in hard-restricted locations. They will operate at speeds below 35 or 40 mph. In case of inclement weather, they will be turned off. And companies will hire technicians who can remotely take control of the car if something goes wrong.

Carl Yagnemo, chief executive of Motional, the company that will operate Lyft’s self-driving cars in Las Vegas, said that was to be expected. “The technology required for autonomous driving is very complex,” he said. “The solution will be found gradually.”

Mr. Yagnemo points out that, unlike other services, anyone can ride in the Motional cars that Lyft offers in Las Vegas. The cars will be more advanced than the ones Lyft has been using in the city since 2018, and the two companies have come up with a new app that can be used to open car doors.

Mr. Yagnemo said the company’s newest cars are a “path to the driverless system” that Lyft and Motional plan to introduce next year.

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