The emergence of new technologies has long been recognized as a pillar of economic growth. Yet new technologies also carry significant uncertainty regarding their economic potential.

Take autonomous vehicles as an example. There has been increasing interest in self-driving cars for nearly 20 years. That interest has been accompanied by high expectations for commercialization by a diverse slate of major businesses including Google, Uber, General Motors, and Tesla. However, commercialization timeline estimates have varied enormously, between less than three years to several decades.

Driverless cars illustrate the difficulty managers have in foreseeing how a new…

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