The Autonomous Vehicle Has Arrived

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Thomas Alva Edison

That is a quote from a recent Article on Waymo’s announcement of a Completely Driverless Service for the general public in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa Arizona. The quote addresses all the skepticism that has surrounded the move towards autonomous vehicles. Author Enrique Dans describes the emerging service and has a message for the naysayers:

Skeptics of the world, this is the moment to admit defeat: those who said it couldn’t be done have been proved wrong; those who said autonomous vehicles couldn’t adapt to real road conditions, that these vehicles would end up waiting at junctions for hours, that legislation would be held up, that nobody would dare use it

As we stare into this emerging future, we must accept that a transition period requires our attention. These future scenarios provide society with an opportunity for growth and prosperity as we transition to a future state. However, once we arrive, the challenges that come with scenarios like autonomous vehicles (e.g., loss of jobs) are realized. That means we have a chance to manage the transition. For example, while this new Waymo driverless service does not require a driver (sorry Uber), these taxis are still monitored, and that requires workers with new skills. As described in the article, the process will have to be refined to allow a single operator to monitor several vehicles. More importantly, this scenario captures what is likely to happen across most future scenarios: the human monitors will be eliminated or replaced by algorithms – having been trained by the human monitor.

Understanding this possible future affords us the opportunity to manage the path. In so doing, we avoid the fear of building a future where our most intractable problems are solved. This belief in our potential is described very clearly in Rethinking Humanity. It is therefore incumbent on us to see the future, understand its possible implications, let go of our current mental models, and manage the path.

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