The Self-Driving Revolution

Let’s be honest: Humans never should have been allowed behind the wheel in the first place. There’s so much that can go wrong, so much room for negligence—it’s incredible to think that we managed human-controlled cars for as long as we did.

Here’s a reading list covering the past, present and future of transportation.

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1. Murder Machines (Hunter Oatman-Stanford, Collectors Weekly, 2014)

A look back at the history of our city streets, and the moment in the 1920s that vehicles overtook pedestrians for the right of way. “Pedestrians could cross at crosswalks. They could also cross when traffic permitted, or in other words, when there was no traffic. But other than that, the streets were now for cars.”

2. How Google Builds Its Maps (Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic, 2012)

Google’s self-driving car project begins with its maps. Madrigal gets an inside look at Google’s “Ground Truth” project and the quest for ever more granular navigation.

3. The Crisis in American Walking (Tom Vanderbilt, Slate 2012)

“America is a country that has forgotten how to walk.” Vanderbilt examines how urban planning in the United States created a public health crisis. See also: Vanderbilt’s 2011 look at the conflict between cars and cyclists.

4. The Black Car Company That People Love to Hate (Nancy Scola, NextCity 2013)

Uber isn’t autonomous, but that’s probably only a matter of time. Scola explores how government regulation can dictate the future of private and public transportation.

5. Auto Correct (Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker 2013)

The most recent look inside Google’s self-driving car project, its origins at the DARPA Grand Challenge more than a decade ago, and its technological blind spots: “The car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. (The first drops call forth a small icon of a cloud onscreen and a voice warning that auto-drive will soon disengage.) It can’t tell wet concrete from dry or fresh asphalt from firm. It can’t hear a traffic cop’s whistle or follow hand signals.”

6. Please Feed The Meters: The Next Parking Revolution (Hunter Oatman-Stanford, Collectors Weekly 2013)

Stanford envisions a world where parking becomes irrelevant, investigating how cities can reinvent themselves by rezoning parking lots and embracing the parking meter.

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