April 13, 2019

Self-driving cars will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now

Meredith Broussard, Vox:

The simple explanation for why this situation didn’t escalate: the unspoken social contract of the bus driver’s authority in this space. We have invested years in developing social contracts around both private and public transportation. When you get into a bus or a train, or even a car, you acknowledge that the person at the wheel is in charge. This power relationship is what allows shared transportation to flourish, and this social contract is what helps many of us in marginalized groups feel safer while riding transportation. It doesn’t feel safe to imagine riding in a shared driverless vehicle. Not just because the technology doesn’t work — but because it doesn’t feel safe to be alone in a small, enclosed space with strange men.

I hadn’t thought about that specific problem with self-driving public transportation. Feels important, but I don’t see how it condemns all self-driving vehicles. It does make me wonder what else I haven’t considered. On the other hand, I believe she’s overly defeatist and contrarian on the topic overall1. My prediction is that in 50 years she’ll be proven 75% wrong.

(via Kottke)


  1. I have not read her book, though, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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