Here’s a nifty podcast from NPR in the USA.  I learned about it when I met Gordon Price, who was riding a Mobi westbound on the Comox/Helmcken Greenway the other day while I was eastbound.

The podcast participants discuss the level of vehicle control designed into an autonomous vehicle.  It contrasts the commercial airliner with the elevator. Both are quite ubiquitous, but one carries human operators (pilots), and the other has minimal controls available to its passengers. This is a fundamental design choice, and the current leader (Google) has already made it for their robocar.

Listen on. The Big Red Button.

Automation is all around us: elevators, automatic doors at the supermarket, and auto-pilots on airplanes. For the most part, we never think about it. It makes our lives easier, cheaper, and safer. But with every new automation, there is this transitional moment. When something first goes automatic, it is disorienting. It freaks us out.

And the big question surrounding automation isn’t just about economics or technology. It’s about psychology. How do designers make us comfortable with something that can be really scary?