Took some time to think about a response here. My narrative was indeed US-focused; I needed a specific story to start with. I plead guilty.
But self-driving will be a real thing in China, perhaps sooner than in the US. Yes, the roads are not orderly, and people tend not to drive on the correct side of the street (or in lanes, for that matter). But the government has made a stunning commitment here, and I expect to see self-driving cars in Beijing near the time they show up in San Francisco and Singapore.
India is harder, because it’s India. It’s not unsolvable, it just comes after China and the developed world.
I appreciate your confidence in my ignorance of oil and materials, but I’m not even certain of the relevance here. Self-driving electric vehicles will be working all the time (not sitting in a garage), and they will last close to a million miles. We’ll need roughly 3–5X fewer of them than internal combustion cars. Yes, energy (and petrochemicals) still go in; but a lot fewer than today, because there are fewer cars.
I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t barriers to roll-out, especially in the developing world. But those who think that the world isn’t going to change — that tech isn’t going to deploy — have often ended up like Kodak. While film is not the same as petrochemicals, the metaphor is still apt in my view.