San Francisco has become a hub for companies wanting to test autonomous vehicles thanks to its progressive leadership and proximity to Silicon Valley. But local residents have slowly been losing patience with the vehicles themselves as they’ve grown in number. While malfunctioning AVs are never popular with other drivers, allowing them to operate without a human safety driver has resulted in rolling reports of vehicles clogging up traffic.
Self-driving test mules are programmed to exercise the maximum amount of caution whenever they’re uncertain of how to progress. This has resulted in traffic jams that are infuriating the locals. But it has also made them incredibly easy to defeat, with activist groups leveraging their circumspect behavior to disable them by placing a traffic cone on the hood.
When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.
We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.
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