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June 9, 2021  

Are Self-Driving Cars a Solution Looking for a Problem?

June 9, 2021

Companies like Tesla have been very effective in creating a perception amongst the public that the self-driving car industry is heading a positive direction. But in reality, will cars ever be able to fully drive themselves?

Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, thinks not. In an interview pointedly titled “Self-driving cars might never be able to drive themselves,” she makes the argument that there are problems with the so-called “deep learning” that is requisite to support fully autonomous vehicles. What often appear to be self-driving cars are actually being monitored by a team of humans—and at that point, the driver may as well just be operating the vehicle themselves.

And at the end of the day, do we actually need self-driving cars? Are they a solution looking for a problem—or perhaps the wrong solution for problems (traffic deaths, traffic congestion, etc.) that could be solved in better, easier ways?

This week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and regular cohost Chuck Marohn “upzone” the conversation about self-driving cars; i.e., they examine it through the Strong Towns lens. They discuss whether or not such technology could truly address all of the sticky fiscal and socioeconomic implications that have been derived from building a world for cars. Moreover, has our fixation on automated vehicles sidelined, or even stifled, conversations about other solutions that could more immediately improve people’s lives?

Then, in the downzone, Chuck’s daughter has presented her own solution for our faulty transportation system, and Abby got to attend a local hot air balloon event.

Additional Show Notes