THE COMPANIES DEVELOPING self-driving cars say handing control over to the machines will make the future a far better place. Once robot chauffeurs are here, they say, the number of car crashes will plummet. Liberated from the need to keep our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, drivers will become riders with more time for working, leisure, and staying in touch with loved ones. We’ll free ourselves from the archaic model of the multi-car household. And we won’t waste so much space parking the damn things.
Even the NHTSA, hardly a starry-eyed cheerleader for technological progress, says the advent of vehicles that drive themselves will provide “completely new possibilities for improving highway safety, increasing environmental benefits, expanding mobility, and creating new economic opportunities for jobs and investment.”