What’s it like to ride in a self-driving car?
I’ve spent the past few months working on a 10,000-word special report on AVs for The Economist, which was published in this week’s issue. The focus of my report is mostly on the long-term implications of AVs, based on the assumption (a reasonable one, I think) that the technology can be made to work reliably in the next few years. Rather than focusing on the minutiae of things like the ever-changing industry alliances, or who is suing who, I concentrated instead on the impact on urban planning, the transformation of retailing and the broader social and political implications of cars that can drive themselves.
I spoke to as many urban planners and social historians as machine-learning experts or car-industry executives. All this horizon-scanning and future-gazing was fun. But to kick off the report, I had to actually go in a self-driving car.
Which is how I found myself, on a snowy morning a few weeks ago, standing in a car park in Pittsburgh, waiting for an automated ride.