Will Self Driving Cars Go the Way of the Segway?

At the beginning of this millennium the best and brightest investors and tech observers told us that the Segway scooter was going to be the greatest, most civilization changing invention since the airplane. To anyone with common sense it was obvious that a Segway was too wide and too fast for sidewalks and also too wide for a bike lane. It also cost as much as a decent used car without the all-weather capability, carrying capacity or travel range. "Never mind," said Segway proselytizers, "cities will be redesigned to accommodate it." Let me repeat that. Intelligent people actually said that because the Segway didn't fit cities, cities would be redesigned to fit the Segway. Of course not.

Which brings me to self driving cars. Self driving cars are not Segways. They are more reliable and safer than human drivers. The are designed to run on normal streets and highways. Their actions and responses are also predictable. So, if a person seems to be moving in front of a self-driving car, the car is programmed to automatically stop. And that could lead to problems. In the NY Times Eric Taub writes on "How Jaywalking Could Jam Up the Era of Self-Driving Cars"

Jaywalking is just the tip of the iceberg of possible problems. Self driving cars will use the same infrastructure, but they will require a change in our personal behavior including likely limitations to personal freedoms - like speeding, pushing through late yellow lights and making turns in illegal places.

While Segway needed cities to change. It may be that self driving cars require human nature itself to change. That's a big ask.

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