The Urban Land Institute’s Next Generation Transportation Thinkers speaker forum was held at Bunt’s downtown office yesterday morning. Thanks to ULI, Simon Fraser, and Bunt for hosting; and Gordon for moderating.

The speakers were engaging, the discussion was good, and like a good infrastructure policy geek, I was disappointed it was over so soon.

The talk inevitably veered toward autonomous vehicles; because that is what will happen when two or more transportation engineers  gather in a setting. It is very much a thing right now whose impacts are poorly understood and disagreed upon, especially among experts. The diagram below explains their popularity among a particular Genus of nerd cohort.

Love for Autonomous Vehicles Explained in a Venn Diagram

The subject always brings to mind this old Disney promo cartoon from 1958 on the Magic Highway of the Future. I wonder how much of this imagery has subconsciously driven enthusiasm for the technology among engineering managers of a certain age. Anything – anything at all – to keep the cars forever moving.

Autonomous vehicles are a potentially life-changing phenomenon and transportation professionals talk about them in wistful, excited, and uncertain tones – like how Cavaliers fans talked in 2003 about this “LeBron James guy”. Dare we get our hopes up?