A NEW kind of vehicle is taking to the roads, and people are not sure what to make of it. Is it safe? How will it get along with other road users? Will it change the way we travel? These questions are being asked today about autonomous vehicles. Exactly the same questions were posed when the first motor cars rumbled onto the roads.
By granting drivers unprecedented freedom, automobiles changed the world. They also led to unforeseen harm, from strip malls and urban sprawl to road rage and climate change. Now AVs are poised to rewrite the rules of transport—and there is a danger that the same mistake will be made all over again.
AVs are on the threshold of being able to drive, without human supervision. Waymo hopes to launch an autonomous “robotaxi” later this year.