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The Future of Driverless Cars

By Taylor Marvin

Kevin Drum flags a provocative quote from Alex Tabarrock on the future of driverless cars:

“At first when there is an accident people will ask, ‘did he have the driverless option on?’ But soon they will start to say ‘if only he had the driverless option on.”‘

There’s a fun parlor game — apologies, I can’t remember where I first saw this — in trying to imagine what aspects of our society future generations will judge as barbaric. We’re appalled that the earlier generations accepted slavery and racism as the natural order of the world, and often enthusiastically supported eugenics. What do we accept without thought that future generations will look upon with horror?

Typical answers include eating animals, punishing crimes with isolating prison sentences, and so on. However, I’ve always thought that future generations will be amazed that we let nearly everyone drive a car, and accepted over 30,ooo motor vehicle deaths a year as perfectly normal. Of course, the freedom of private cars, and their costs, are a valued and necessary part of our society. But when driverless cars come into their own in the next few decades, I’m certain that the expectation that traffic deaths are a part of life will change.

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