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From New York Magazine.   This article is really good, with lots of surprising insights.  Here are some:

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The experience of driving a car has been the mythopoeic heart of America for half a century. How will its absence be felt? We are still probably too close to it to know for sure. Will we mourn the loss of control? Will it subtly warp our sense of personal freedom — of having our destiny in our hands? Will it diminish our daily proximity to death? Will it scramble our (too often) gendered, racialized notions of who gets to drive which kinds of cars? …

What will become of the cinematic car chase? What about the hackneyed country song where driving is a metaphor for life? …

Without a need for driver’s licenses, the age of 16 will cease to be a demarcation between childhood and adulthood, a move that will simultaneously infantilize adults and liberate children (who will be able to “drive” as soon as their parents allow them to go unsupervised). Parents, meanwhile, will be liberated from hours spent playing limo driver for their kids.

Professional drivers of all stripes — taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery people — will lose their jobs, and countless industries will be forced to evolve. …

When it isn’t doubling as a family environment, the self-driving car could become a rolling bedroom. It could even expand upon the car’s current role as a no-tell motel. Lipson and Kurman envision a “bed bus” model, “complete with shaded windows for privacy.” Since many riders will be all alone in their cars with nothing to do, the authors also predict that self-driving cars “could offer a comfortable new viewing environment for fans of pornography to immerse themselves in.”

Perhaps their ickiest prediction is that, to relieve themselves of the loneliness of riding in a sealed-off little pod, passengers will pay extra for the “Meet People” option the next time they rent a robo-taxi, so they “could be matched up with other passengers of the same age, or with similar patterns of web browsing and Facebook ‘likes.’ ”

By coordinating their movements, automated vehicles will be able to clump together into “platoons,” which will reduce wind drag, like the peloton in a bicycle race, allowing them to reach tremendously high speeds with relative safety. They will avoid selfish driving, which exacerbates traffic jams, and they will be able to learn from one another’s mistakes, a feature called “fleet learning.”

And because they will be able to communicate with each other in ways more complex than mere hand signals and honks, they will be able to begin radically refashioning the modern road network. Instead of stopping at intersections, self-driving cars could weave past one another; rush-hour traffic could conceivably swell to fill empty oncoming lanes, with lone cars slicing upstream against the flow of traffic, the way Brazilian army ants do. Our cars, in short, may finally achieve the state of swarm intelligence that has long eluded us but that the animal kingdom has been exploiting for millennia. …

14-driverless-cars-3-nocrop-w710-h2147483647-2xIt cannot be long before the windshield is fully colonized by glowing pixels, serving, at least part of the time, as a kind of widescreen TV. Eerier still, the glass surfaces could all be programmed to display a highly stylized version of the car’s surroundings, by applying Instagram-style filters, incorporating augmented reality games, or simply fictionalizing the landscape into something altogether more scenic. If I were asked to condense the whole of the coming decades into one mental picture, I might pick this soon-to-be familiar sight: a man in a motorcar, riding along an asphalt highway while staring blankly at a glowing screen. …

What exactly is that freedom worth? In answering that question, we as a society will schism in curious ways. For those of us who see driving as a kind of imprisonment — which, spatially speaking, it quite literally is — an extra hour to work or play (or eat, or read, or meditate, or fix our hair and do our makeup) will be cherished. But for those who see driving as a physical expression of freedom — which, spatially speaking, it also quite literally is — the end of driving will feel like confinement. …

Some on the right are already equating steering wheels to guns, making it plain that they will not give them up gladly. As political battles so often do, this rhetoric contains a gendered subtext: The nanny state wants to take away our cars, but real men won’t ever give them up. …

Because driverless cars are programmed to never break (or even bend) traffic laws, they will never go more than ten miles over the speed limit, even when you’re rushing to the hospital and your daughter’s face is turning blue. You will never take a turn a little too hard, causing that little droopy feeling in your gut. You will never do doughnuts, never peel out, never gun your engine. The shared experience of American adolescence — much of it spent in cars, acquiring a nuanced understanding of when, and how, it is okay to break certain rules — will simply vanish. In exchange, we will be given a few more minutes each day to stare at screens. …

Perhaps driverless cars can be hacked and taught to do things contrary to their makers’ intent. (If Ballard’s cyberpunk descendants have taught us anything, it’s that technology never plays out as neatly as predicted.) Perhaps teens will crawl out the window at high speed and Teen Wolf their cars’ roofs. Perhaps, as the science-fiction writer Roger Zelazny envisaged, people will take their cars on a “blindspin,” typing in random coordinates and then allowing the car to surprise them, like automotive flâneurs.

Perhaps the cars will be programmed to give pedestrians and bicyclists more space, and streets will finally become less menacing to the frail human body. Or perhaps, following a great tidal shift in our values, the sprawling suburbs will wither and cars will be relegated to a minor role, as people decide they would rather walk and ride bikes through human-scale towns and dense, effervescent, welcoming-and-yet-weird-as-fuck cities.

Who can say for certain? The future is unfathomably strange, and always has been.