User login

Join The Debate

Cast your vote and join the conversation.

Membership is free.


Get Started

You are here

Debates
April 13, 2019
All Hail the Driverless Car!

Podcast Exclusive: 

What if the next car you buy or taxi you hail drives itself? Driverless cars, also known as autonomous or self-driving vehicles, are currently in test-drive mode around the globe. Proponents claim this innovation will drastically improve our lives, with fewer auto accidents, less traffic congestion and carbon emissions, as well as greater accessibility for the elderly and those with physical limitations. Opponents, however, argue that autonomous vehicles will increase traffic, render current infrastructure obsolete, and jeopardize millions of auto-related jobs. Worse yet, they say, these cars are nothing more than a computer-on-wheels, meaning an error in programming by developers, or hacking by nefarious actors, could lead to disaster. Should we proceed with caution? Or embrace the driverless car? This debate is presented in partnership with the Adam Smith Society. The Adam Smith Society — a project of the Manhattan Institute — is an expansive, chapter-based network of MBA students, professionals, and business leaders who work to foster debate about the moral, social, and economic benefits of capitalism.

  • 00:00:00
    John Donvan:
    Hi there, I'm John Donvan, host and the moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. Before we get into this episode, we want to thank Blinkist for supporting our debates. Blinkist helps you fit more listening and reading into your life by giving you the key take-aways from the best non-fiction books. Get a free seven-day trial at Blinkist.com/debate.

    Hi, I'm John Donvan, host and moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates. When I was a kid, futurists had us imagining that one day we would all be getting around in jetpacks and in one-person helicopters and for some reason and wearing silver suits. It didn't happen did it? But when my kids were kids the talk was how someday we'd all be getting around in driverless cars. And now, it seems that may actually be about to happen in some form or other as the kinks get worked out.
  • 00:00:56
    Heralding in an era if the dream proves true for safer and cheaper and more convenient transport. But that dream, does it have a dark side? Could the driverless car hit the environment hard, put masses of people out of work, fail to be as safe as promised? Well, we decided this all has the makings of a debate, so that's what we're going to do. With two teams of two, experts who have spent years thinking about these questions, ready now to argue for and against the resolution we put before them, which is, "All Hail the Driverless Car." We're going in front of a live audience at the Adam Smith Society's 2019 National Meeting in New York. We go in three rounds. All Hail the Driverless Car. Let’s get started and meet these debaters.

    [applause]

    Please, welcome Amitai Bin-Nun.

    [applause]

    Amitai, you are currently the vice president of autonomous vehicles at SAFE.
  • 00:01:51
    That's a nonprofit in D.C., working with state and local and federal governments to better understand to positively engage driverless cars in advanced transportation technology. Amitai, welcome to Intelligence Squared.

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    It's great to be here. Thank you for having me.

    John Donvan:
    It's great to have you. And your partner, please ladies and gentlemen, welcome Chris Urmson.

    [applause]

    Chris, you are a known name, truly a player in this field, and by that I mean in the self-driving vehicle industry after 15 years of work in this you helped to develop Google's self-driving car program. You are now the CEO and co-founder of Aurora. Great to have you here, Chris.

    Chris Urmson:
    Thanks for having me. It's an honor to be here.

    John Donvan:
    It's a pleasure to have you as well. Ladies and gentlemen, the team arguing for the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car.

    [applause]

    And of course, we have two debaters arguing against this resolution. First, please welcome everyone Meredith Broussard.

    [applause]

    Meredith, you work where artificial intelligence crosses lines with journalism. You were once developing software for AT&T, Bell Labs, and MIT.
  • 00:02:51
    You now teach data journalism at New York University. Thanks for joining us.

    Meredith Broussard:
    Great to be here. Thank you.

    John Donvan:
    It's great to have you as well.

    [applause]

    And Meredith's partner, ladies and gentlemen, Ashley Nunes.

    [applause]

    Ashley, you're a senior researcher at Harvard and at MIT.

    You're an expert in transportation safety and regulatory policy in behavioral economics. You write extensively. You lecture globally on the changes facing the transportation industry. We're so glad to have you here, Ashley. Thanks so much.

    Ashley Nunes:
    Thank you for having me.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    And so, to the debate, we go in three rounds. Our first round will be opening statements by each debater in turn. Speaking first for the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car, here is Amitai Bin-Nun, regulation expert and vice president of autonomous vehicles at SAFE. Ladies and gentlemen, Amitai Bin-Nun.

    [applause]

    Amitai Bin-Nun
    To advance and create a better future, we must pursue deeper understanding of nature and embrace the potential of technology. We are lucky to be alive today. My life and your life are far better off than if we were born 100 years ago or 200 years ago.
  • 00:03:54
    Life expectancy today in the U.S. at birth is approaching 80 years. A hundred years ago that was in its 40s. Two hundred years ago you could expect to live to your 30s when you were born. Globally, 200 years ago, almost half of all children born died before the age of five. Today, that's under 10 -- that's under 4 percent and in the U.S. that's under 1 percent. Two hundred years ago, 95 percent of all people in the world lived in what we would consider dire poverty under what -- the equivalent of what is today $2 a day. Today that's 10 percent and dropping and that means that we have room to go on all of these fronts and there's a lot more for us to do, but even the poorest people today have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest members of generations past.


    Our improved health and our economic prosperity is being driven by scientific discovery and technological development. Rejecting scientific advancement brings stagnation, and ultimately, irrelevance as a society.
  • 00:04:49
    And it is the people who compose our societies who make the choices to deploy those technologies and apply it to our problems to build that better tomorrow and so long as scientific discovery continues, that is a task that does not end. Self-driving cars are so exciting because they offer us a fresh opportunity to address some intractable problems that transportation policy and technologists have tried for decades to address. To improve roadway safety, to improve the accessibility of our transportation system, to reduce fossil fuel use, to improve congestion, and reduce inequality and access to transportation. We have these problems because we cannot live without the freedom of movement. Travel provides us with the economic opportunities to support our life and meeting people meets our deep needs as social beings in order to meet our social needs. Studies show that people who cannot move, who do not have freedom of movement, have greater rates of depression and have worse health outcomes.

    Our lives are enriched by the fact that we can travel, and we can be more exposed to other cultures. That's why since the invention of the automobile, Americans travel 50 times further each year than they did before, and we get all sorts of opportunities because of that.
  • 00:05:57
    We pay the costs. We pay with our money. We pay with our time. We pay with our very lives.

    Our transportation system isn't accessible. There are two million people with a disability who never leave their home because they cannot drive. Despite there being such a large constituency, there are 15 million people who have difficulty accessing transportation because of their inability to drive. I want to share with you the story of my friend Lindsay [spelled phonetically], who I've worked with in Washington, D.C. Lindsay is legally blind, and she cannot drive. She moved from car-dependent Texas to Washington, D.C. because the other transportation opportunities in D.C. let her work and let her have a full social life. She became inspired by the potential of self-driving cars to improve mobility for people like her and she has launched a policy initiative within the Department of Labor to use self-driving cars to help people with disabilities get to work. But we cannot move forward without the help of you and other members of the public.
  • 00:06:53
    So, when I say All Hail the Self-Driving Car, I don't mean hail like you hail a leader, I mean you should actively step forward just like you might hail a taxi and use your efforts and your strength to help summon this future into being. So, I ask that we all collectively hail the self-driving car.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Amitai Bin-Nun. And that of course is the resolution, All Hail the Driverless Car, and here to make her opening statement against this resolution, journalist and author, Meredith Broussard.

    [applause]

    Meredith Broussard:
    I want to start by talking about the first time that I rode in a self-driving car, which was back in 2007. I was writing a story about the grand challenge, the DARPA Grand Challenge, and I heard about these kids who were building a self-driving car to drive it through the desert and I thought oh, that sounds like a fantastic story, and so I went to ride in it.
  • 00:07:50
    I got into the car, and I thought I was going to vomit. I thought I was going to die, and then I thought I was going to do both at the same time. So, what the car did was it was in an empty parking lot at a Boeing plant in south Philadelphia and the car had to steer on a big curve through the parking lot and it headed straight at a giant cement pilon and it failed to detect this giant cement pilon and we almost ran into it, inches away from running into it. And it did not inspire confidence in me. And so in 2007, I thought oh well, you know, this sounds nifty, but these engineers are saying oh, it's not going to be available, this technology, for five years and I thought ah, I don't know if it's ever going to be and I kind of forgot about it. So, fast forward in 2016, when I started hearing again that self-driving cars are five years in the future and I wondered, did they actually fix all of the problems that I observed in 2007?
  • 00:08:52
    And the answer is no. And in fact, advocates for self-driving cars have been saying that they're coming soon since at least 1991. With all of these delays and with all of these futures that have failed to materialize, I think it's time to ask will self-driving cars ever work? I started my career as a computer scientist and then I quit to become a journalist. And I have a new book out called, "Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World." It's about the inner workings and the outer limits of technology. So, I've spent the past couple of years thinking about why there's a really big gap between what people imagine technology can do and what technology can actually do. And so, the self-driving car is a really good place to examine the gap between imagination and reality. There are a lot of misconceptions around artificial intelligence. A really easy definition that I like to use is that artificial intelligence is a sub-field of computer science the same way that algebra is a sub-field of mathematics.
  • 00:09:57
    And inside artificial intelligence we have other sub-fields like machine learning and buzzwords like neural networks. There's a little linguistic confusion around these terms because when you say artificial intelligence, you say machine learning, it sounds like there's a little brain in the computer, right? And it kind of triggers all of our Hollywood imagination. And so, this confusion extends to self-driving cars. When we think about the artificial intelligence inside self-driving cars, people kind of assume that the car is thinking. It's not thinking. It's sub-routines. It's computing, which is a really important distinction. And the AI inside autonomous vehicles is very, very impressive. It is an amazing feat of engineering. It is not safe, but it is extremely impressive. So, let's look at one of the ways that the artificial intelligence fails.
  • 00:10:51
    The thing that the car needs to do when it comes up to say a stop sign is it needs to take in sensor information from the world, identify that there's a stop sign, and then trigger sub-routine to slowly come to a halt at the line in front of the stop sign. And the problem is that the image recognition algorithms that are inside the car are very brittle. They're very easy to defeat. So, if I were to do something simple like take a sparkly unicorn sticker and put it in to the stop sign, then the car would fail to recognize the stop sign as a stop sign and would go through the intersection and cause an accident. Another thing that engineers are not talking enough about is the environment inside a self-driving car. Think about the way that harassment works inside ride share vehicles now. We know that women are routinely harassed inside ride share vehicles by other passengers and one of the reasons that I personally appreciate public transportation is that there is a train conductor, there is a bus driver.
  • 00:12:00
    There's somebody with moral authority that is recognized inside that space. So, if we take away the bus driver, we take away the moral authority, we take away a degree of safety and I don't know that that's something that we want to do as a society. I'm also going to ask a provocative question. I talked to a lot of taxi drivers and what they said across the board was that people are kind of gross in taxis. Who will clean them? Lots of people get car sick. Think about that.

    [laughter]

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, journalist, Meredith Broussard. Can Driverless technology improve our lives, or will they cause disasters and leave a big mess. More on these statements, in just a moment, from Intelligence Squared U.S.
  • 00:12:52
    [music plays]

    Hey fans of Intelligence Squared U.S., if you are a fan of the show, and I'm guessing you are, we know you're intellectually curious, but are you also too busy to read the books everyone's talking about? Well, the Blinkist app can help with that. Blinkest is an app that gives you the key take-aways and the need-to-know information, from thousands of non-fiction books ranging from self-help to business to health to history, all instilled into 15-minute segments that you can read or listen to. Its audio features make it easy for you to finish highlights from four books a day. That’s probably why eight million people are using Blinkist right now. One title they think you as a fan of Intelligence U.S. Squared might like is The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. And for a limited time, Blinkist has a special offer for our audience. Go to Blinkest.com/debate to start your free seven-day trial.
  • 00:13:52
    That's Blinkist, spelled B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T. Blinkist.com/debate to start your free seven-day trial. Blinkist.com/debate.

    [applause]

    So, a reminder of where we are. We are halfway through the opening round of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I'm John Donvan. We have four debaters, two teams of two, fighting it out over this resolution, All Hail the Driverless Car. You've heard the first two opening statements and now on to the third. To debate in support of the resolution Aurora co-founder and CEO, Chris Urmson.

    [applause]

    Chris Urmson:
    The last 15 years this has been my life. I was there in the desert the first year when we were challenged to drive 150 miles across the desert and that year, we drove seven and then basically burst into flames. And so, you know, no we weren't quite ready yet, but a year and a half we -- later we came back, and we had six vehicles finish the challenge that year.
  • 00:14:51
    And so, we got on our soapbox and we said, this technology is coming. It's getting better faster. We then had the third grand challenge and this time the idea was to drive around an abandoned air base and some brave souls, some stunt drivers actually, got in vehicles and interacted with the cars on the road that day and they were moving around and creating traffic and after 60 miles five vehicles finished. Now, it wasn't without excitement. One big truck drove into a building. You know, two other cars bumped into each other. But this was more than a decade ago. And this technology is advancing rapidly since then. For me, I've seen the first time that a blind man rode in a self-driving car by himself through a city. I've also seen the first time the police pulled over a self-driving car, and, you know, the need for us to explain what's happening with the technology and the community, and that's why I'm here today. And let's talk about safety first. Worldwide 1.3 million people die on our roads. About 40,000 people die on America's roads every year. That's the equivalent of four 738 Max 8s falling out of the sky every.
  • 00:15:55
    Where's the outrage? The status quo is incredibly broken, and we have the opportunity to do something about this. The good news is that 96 percent of these accidents are due to human error, people making mistakes behind the wheel. And the reason why we have these accidents is due to a combination of people drinking, being distracted, and being tired. We need to find a way to bring another solution to bear and in this case the solution is tantalizingly close and that is self-driving, driverless vehicles. But let's ask the question why do people do these things in the car. Fundamentally, people are really bad at estimating risk and their ability. You know, it turns out that more than 80 percent of Americans believe they are above-average drivers, so think about that for a moment. And then the second is that time is precious. Right? And so, when we have the opportunity to pull a cellphone from our pocket and indulge in something fun in the midst of the tedium of driving, we do so, and at great risk to ourselves and the public.
  • 00:16:56
    There’s a very human cost to this, and there’s a huge economic cost as well. It turns out the average American commutes about 55 minutes a day; there’s about 128 million people who do that. If you multiply that by the average hourly wage in the U.S., which I looked up today -- it’s about $28 -- that means we are spending $3 billion a day to have the privilege of commuting. Anyone who says they like driving doesn’t enjoy commuting, and we can fix that for them. Imagine those people coming home at the end of the day, instead of cursing about the experience they just had, having had the chance to use that time productively or had the chance to read a book or relax or engage in a debate. Really, the argument shouldn’t be “Do we hail the driverless car?” It’s “Do we really accept the cost and the loss of life, accept it with the status quo?” And if we don’t, then this is the technology to deliver that.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Chris Urmson. And again, the resolution is All Hail the Driverless Car, and here to make his statement against the resolution is Ashley Nunes, a senior researcher at Harvard Law and MIT.
  • 00:17:57
    Ashley Nunes, ladies and gentlemen.

    [applause]

    Ashley Nunes:
    Let’s say we could get the technology to be perfect. Who stands to benefit the most from driverless technology? Who is dying on America’s roads? If we look at road fatalities over the last 20 or 30 years, there has, in fact, been a drop, in terms of the volume of people that are dying on the roads. But it turns out that that drop has not been uniformly shared across the socioeconomic spectrum. Sam Harper [spelled phonetically], a wonderful epidemiologist at McGill, has done some work on this, and what he has found is truly worrying. If you are an American with a college degree or higher, the chances of you dying on the road has gone down over the last three decades, but if you have less than a college degree, the chances of you dying on America’s roads has actually gone up.
  • 00:18:56
    And one reason why is because less educated people generally tend to make more money -- less money, excuse me -- and as a consequence of that they are more likely to own older vehicles that lack advanced safety features, things like rear-facing cameras, blind spot detectors, automated braking. Put simply, if there is one group of Americans that stands to benefit from driverless car technology, it’s poor people, which raises a very interesting question: can poor people actually afford it? And we’ve crunched the numbers, and what we have found is that they cannot. In fact, on a per-mile basis, riding in a driverless taxi would be at least three times higher than owning an older vehicle today -- three times higher.
  • 00:19:49
    This raises a very interesting question. While driverless car technology may, in fact, have the potential to improve public health, to save lives, whose lives are we actually saving?

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Ashley Nunes. And that concludes round one of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, where our resolution is All Hail the Driverless Car.

    Now we move on to round two, and round two is where the debaters address one another directly and also take questions from me and from you, our live audience here at the Adam Smith Society in New York City. The team arguing for the resolution, Amitai Bin-Nun and Chris Urmson, they presented a very optimism-infused argument, driverless cars as an incredible innovation, which will solve a variety of problems, including safety and accessibility and climate change and even income inequality. They put a special emphasis on how it will solve challenges faced by the disability community by giving them freedom of movement.
  • 00:20:54
    Basically, that we are now “tantalizingly close” to the realization of this vision. The team arguing against the resolution says, “No, we’re not tantalizingly close.” They’re arguing that the promise of artificial intelligence has been rather hyped; that the basic problem with the driverless car is that they are computers, and computing is not thinking, and driving needs thinking. The promise is hollow; they say the algorithms are easy to defeat, and finally, they talk about the environment inside the cars and talk about the absence of a moral agent such as a driver or a bus driver. Kind of home-run point, that if somebody gets car sick in a driverless car, who’s going to clean the thing up? Okay, so that sums up the arguments that we heard from both sides, and I want to dig into some of that, starting, I think, with the basic feasibility question on the one hand. Meredith, you were saying that it’s just never going to happen -- Chris, you said it’s tantalizingly close.

    So, defend “tantalizingly.”
  • 00:21:50
    Chris Urmson:
    Defend “tantalizing?” It’s a good word. I was thinking it was on the SATs.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    How close are we?

    Chris Urmson:
    So, I think you will see within the next five years small-scale deployments of this technology. My former team at Google has deployed vehicles where they were driving around with no operator in them. They’re not yet ready for full-scale deployments, and they’re doing the right thing and being very safe and thoughtful in that deployment. But we can see this technology on the road; our team engages with it every day. And I think probably one of the strong points is just the amount of economic investment in the space. Some very smart people are in investing significant dollars behind this technology to push it forward.

    John Donvan:
    So, Meredith you’re making the exact counterargument. You’re saying it’ll never get there.

    So, what’s your response to Chris’s point just now?

    Meredith Broussard:
    I actually used to believe that the self-driving cars were close, and then I went in, and I read the code, and I read the training data. I looked at the training data, and I realized that a lot of the kind of everyday issues that we cope with as drivers are not represented in the training data and are not accounted for in the code.
  • 00:22:56
    So, I think about weird things that happen when you’re driving. So, my personal weirdest thing that ever happened while I was driving was, I was going down a twisty road in Vermont, and all of a sudden, there was a moose just standing in the middle of the road, just looking at me. And I thought, “Wow.” It never before occurred to me that I was going to have to reckon with a moose when I was driving. And so, I could very quickly update my mental model that, oh, yes, there are going to be moose in Vermont, and there are going to be large mammals that I’m going to have to navigate around as a driver.

    John Donvan:
    Plural, meese that would be.

    [laughter]

    Plural, yeah. So, let me take your point to Chris. So, your opponent is saying they are just going to be things that the software will never be able to work with.

    Chris Urmson:
    This is the thing that I actually do know a little bit about. So, well, being Canadian, we’re familiar with meese --

    [laughter]

    -- and working in this space.
  • 00:23:49
    So, I think that this longtail argument for rare events -- I think there are two ways that I think about that as maybe not as big a deal as others do. One is when you have teams of people that have been working on this for a decade, we’ve thought pretty hard about this stuff. The idea that an animal might be on the road is not totally surprising concept, particularly if you look at safety statistics. The other thing that I would think about is that, really, a lot of those rare events -- what it boils down to is not hitting the thing.

    Right? You know, it might look like a moose; it might look like a tree, it might look like a sparkly unicorn. You know, it might look like any of these things, but at the end of the day, the goal is don’t hit the stuff in the road. And so, a lot of that really boils down to something relatively straightforward.

    John Donvan:
    Merit is such a hard bar to prove, but you really are staking out that ground.

    Meredith Broussard:
    I really am, I really am, because --

    John Donvan:
    And the optimism that you hear from Chris does not --

    Meredith Broussard:
    I mean, one of the things that I really like that Chris has said in the past is, Chris, you have a YouTube video, where you talk about weird stuff that has been observed by the Google cars, and so there’s a clip where you’re talking about a woman in a wheelchair chasing a duck --
  • 00:24:54
    [laughter]

    -- around the street. And I thought, “Wow, that is a really great example of something that I never would have imagined that I needed to write code against if I were programming this car.” But the category of things that happen in the world that you can’t write code against is actually -- you know, is really vast, and so you have cases like in Australia when the cars malfunction when faced with kangaroos. Okay? Because, like, yes, we can absolutely program against moose.

    Like, we can program against North American land mammals, and we can program against, you know, North American birds, but then we get to Australia, and we’re into the kangaroos, and they’re totally different. And so, humans are really flexible -- we can update our mental models very quickly and easily -- and these kinds of things are not easy to update in code. They’re actually very expensive.

    John Donvan:
    All right, so let me bring Amitai.

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    Yeah, sure. So, I think this debate is speaking to the difficulty sometimes in seeing the future even if as we’re at the cusp of it.
  • 00:25:49
    And this recalls to mind the journalist named Clifford Stoll, who’s a very respected columnist, but his career will forever be remembered by one unfortunate article that he wrote in 1995, where he said the internet is going to fizzle out and be completely meaningless. I think it had such beautiful lines in it like, “Well, if ecommerce is going to be anything, how come I -- my mall does more business in the afternoon than the entire internet does in a month? Who wants to read a newspaper on the computer?” Now, in his defense, it’s always hard to see these things in foresight; hindsight is 20/20. I really think that in 10 years from now, when we look back on this, or in 10, 15 years, when this is mainstream, we’re going to look back and think that it was obvious going forward.

    And it’s being driven by very fundamental advances in tech. The same amount of computation that cost a couple pennies today cost $1,000 in 2,000 and a $1 billion in 1970.

    And so, that’s why when we talk about image recognition -- even since the Google self-driving car project has started, on the annual competition where teams test their cutting-edge vision algorithms, their error rates have improved by a factor of 10 just over that time.
  • 00:26:51
    John Donvan:
    So, Amitai, are you suggesting that all problems ultimately -- almost all problems ultimately are solvable through technology?

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    Technologies are tools, and they give us tools to solve problems that weren’t solved before.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, so I want to take that note to Ashley Nunes, who’s made the argument that there’s just -- there’s a socioeconomic problem, that the -- if, indeed, your team’s argument that driverless cars have the ability to reduce income inequality by making these vehicles are available to people who can afford cars, Ashley’s saying no, that’s not actually not true economically, that people be better off keeping and owning awful old cars because it costs -- will probably cost too much to hail one of these things and get in it if you’re income-limited.

    So, Ashley, respond to what Amitai is saying is this is a problem that can be solved because most these problems can be solved.

    Ashley Nunes:
    As a fellow Canadian, I certainly appreciate the importance of dealing with meese.

    [laughter]

    Ashley Nunes:
    That said, I just want to go to Chris’s point earlier, where you talked about tremendous investment in the space. I think there was a Brookings Report in which they were talking about something on the order of about $80 billion. This is a bit of a [unintelligible] comeback, but what I would say is just because people are willing to invest in an enterprise, doesn’t mean the enterprise makes sense, and I think Theranos is a very, very good example of this.
  • 00:27:57
    Now, in regard to self-driving --

    John Donvan:
    You want to remind people what Theranos is?

    Ashley Nunes:
    Essentially, a biopharmaceutical company out in California that, for lack of a better word, was --

    Chris Urmson:
    A scam?

    Ashley Nunes:
    -- a scam [laughs]. That said, some of --

    John Donvan:
    But your point is that the people who invested in it -- a lot of people invested in it -- their investments did not prove that it was a good idea.

    Ashley Nunes:
    Precisely, just to tackle that point.

    Chris Urmson:
    We could digress here, but I think if you look at the oversight of that company versus some of the oversight --

    Ashley Nunes:
    Fair enough.

    Chris Urmson:
    -- [inaudible] --

    John Donvan:
    That is a fair point.

    Ashley Nunes:
    Yeah, fair enough. Now, on the point regarding we can, get the costs down -- I cannot dispute Amitai’s point. If we think about the first cellphone, for example, looked a little bit like a brick. And I think at that time a cellphone sold for about $4,000; in today’s dollars that would be about $9,000, and I doubt very much most of you have paid $9,000 for your cellphone. Well, some of you might have. I don’t know.

    It is true that as technology gets better, and as production volume increases, we can get the price down, but that’s not really the comparison.
  • 00:28:51
    The question isn’t “Can we get the price to be lower?” The question is “Can we get the price to drop so that it is competitive with what poor people and, indeed, regular people own today?” And I, to date at least, have not seen any data that suggests you can get this technology to be cost-competitive with personal vehicle ownership.

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    There is actually a readymade audience that would enormously benefit from self-driving technologies, especially if it comes out as most technology -- as most people in the field believe: in shared fleets like Uber and Lyft. Two income groups that use taxis the most: the richest group, as you might expect, who use it for convenience, and the poorest groups, because they can’t afford to own a car and therefore have to pay for taxis, even though taxes are more expensive.

    So, those groups will benefit immediately with self-driving cars in a fleet model, and that’s already been borne out of what we’ve seen in Uber and Lyft. Taxis are not available in most zip codes in Los Angeles, and it was a study by University of California-Davis that showed that 99.8 percent of Los Angeles can now get into an Uber or Lyft, and they’re including lower-income populations and black neighborhoods where taxis didn’t want to go.
  • 00:29:58
    So, that opens possibilities that they didn’t have before.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. Meredith?

    Meredith Broussard:
    So, here’s something that I’ve been wondering about. This is not a debate point, but this is a question. What happens when you have these cars out on the road with these thousands of dollars of equipment, and people want to steal the equipment off of them? Because I think a lot about the ways that you would defeat a self-driving car. You can do is you can do a lot of damage with a Post-It note, okay?

    Because the self-driving car -- you know, it’s designed to not hit things, so you can stand in front of it, and it’s not going to go anywhere. The Tesla, for example, has these, like, really fun falcon wings, but if you’re parked too close to a road sign, the falcon wings won’t go up because the sensor is impeded. So, I thought, “Well, what if you went up to it with a Post-It note, put the Post-It note over the sensor, then the car can’t move, and then you can, like, rip off all of the expensive equipment.”

    John Donvan:
    Who would do that?
  • 00:30:54
    You mean a vandal?

    Meredith Broussard:
    Yeah.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. So, your perceptions of humanity are --

    [laughter]

    No, no, no.

    Meredith Broussard:
    Yeah.

    John Donvan:
    No, there is vandalism.

    Meredith Broussard:
    I’m a journalist [laughs].

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    I’m a journalist, too, and I’m thinking, “Okay, I know where you’re coming from on this.” But -- so let’s bring it back to the real optimist on the stage, Amitai.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    You know, things like --

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    I’m [unintelligible] sunny [unintelligible].

    John Donvan:
    -- what Meredith is talking about, things like hacking in -- I mean, people are hacking into automobiles and electronics already. So, these all sound like serious challenges to the kind of positive vision that you’re laying out there. And again, you might say everything is solvable in the end, but can you be more specific about that?

    Chris Urmson:
    We think about somebody putting a Post-It note on the car, and, you know, we’d certainly prefer it to not drive away rather than kind of faith-based drive off and hope it all works out. We think about security; we think about these failure modes. You know, if I look at the engine of my car, it’s probably worth $1,000 or more.
  • 00:31:52
    I think the transmission is; I think the tires of my car are probably worth a few hundred dollars. This kind of a thing that exists -- it doesn’t feel like an argument against driving cars; it is more of a discussion around our perception of humanity.

    John Donvan:
    I found Meredith’s point one that I didn’t expect to come up: the notion of there being a sort of a moral -- what was the term used? A moral authority in public spaces, such as buses and taxis. And what you’re really sort of saying is you don’t want to be alone in a box that doesn’t have a human --

    Meredith Broussard:
    With strange --

    John Donvan:
    -- that doesn’t appeal to you. With strange -- yeah.

    Meredith Broussard:
    And I think a lot of women feel like this. A lot of us don’t get into elevators late at night with strange men. We won’t do a ride-share, especially when we’re going home late at night or after, you know, being out at the bars, because --

    John Donvan:
    I want to see what --

    Meredith Broussard:
    And this is something that men often don’t think about.

    John Donvan:
    Guys, do you -- have you thought about it?

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    Sure. Yeah, so --

    Chris Urmson:
    Right, so I think it’s terrible that women feel that level of risk, but we didn’t say we’re not going to have elevators because of that. The technology is still incredibly useful and valuable, and the right answer is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • 00:32:51
    [music plays]

    John Donvan:
    Can we proceed with caution, or embrace self-driving technology? All Hail the Driverless Car, more debate on that in just a moment. I'm John Donvan, this is Intelligence Squared U.S. This episode of Intelligence Squared U.S. is presented in partnership with the Adam Smith Society, that’s an expansive and chapter-based network of MBA students and professionals and business leaders, who are working to foster debate about the moral and the social and the economic benefits of capitalism. Launched in 2011 by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the Adam Smith Society has as its goal to provide a venue where members can engage in meaningful dialogue about free enterprise. They've created a form in the U.S. and also abroad that gives future business leaders access to in-depth programs exploring and promoting the market economy. They're also developing tools to advance thoughtful, balanced exchanges around the free-market on campus.
  • 00:33:51
    With more than 40 chapters and a presence at elite business school campuses and major cities across the U.S. and abroad, the Adam Smith Society celebrates America's heritage of liberty and global prosperity and looks to future business leaders to carry on the tradition of promoting free markets. Visit their website, Adamsmithsociety.com/membership to join as a paid member of exclusive programing and networking opportunities and VIP events among many other perks. That’s Adamsmithsociety.com.

    I want to remind you that we are in the question and answer section of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I'm John Donvan, your moderator. We have four debaters, two teams of two, debating this resolution All Hail the Driverless Car.

    John Donvan:
    Ashley, can you take on your opponents’ argument about the advantages of driverless-car world for the disabled?

    Ashley Nunes:
    I really have a problem with this term, “driverless,” because it conjures up the image that there is no one overlooking the technology, and this is factually inaccurate.
  • 00:34:51
    Through the history of mankind, through the history of mankind there has never been a single instance, not one, where safety-critical features have been designated to machines without any human oversight. Driverless, as I often say, does not mean humanless. To your point about the impact on the disabled, the consequences, on the one hand, are good because you have someone watching over that vehicle in case a disabled person, or any person for that matter, has difficulty. But there is a negative externality as well, which is the minute you have an individual watching over a driverless car, that’s a cost. How many driverless cars or driverless cabs should one person watch? Because the only way the economics work is if you leverage economies of density. And I have put this question before to, you know, auto execs, and no one will give me an answer.

    John Donvan:
    Can I come to that question in a moment --

    Ashley Nunes:
    Sure.

    John Donvan:
    -- after you answer the question about the impact on the disabled community? Because it seems huge.

    Ashley Nunes:
    Absolutely. It absolutely has the ability to increase mobility for a large swath of Americans; indeed, individuals more broadly.
  • 00:35:54
    But leveraging that benefit depends, once again, on cost.

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    So, looking at the average paratransit ride is $70 or $90, we should be able to do that better than that pretty easily.

    John Donvan:
    So, Ashley was making the point that, at some level, somebody needs to be -- some individual needs to be sort of overseeing that -- in a sense, a kind of air traffic control system.

    Somebody’s got to be there. And he asks the question, how many vehicles can a human keep track of and do that well and safely?

    Chris Urmson:
    I think, conceptually, I agree with the point. I think you’re right that there will be some level of oversight. Exactly what the number is -- I could make up something, but it would be meaningless. But the point is that it will not be one operator to one vehicle; it will be one to many. The technology is avoiding bumping into stuff and then at the point where we really need human level intellect to support and kind of unblock the technology, that’s where the people engage, and that’s at a relatively low rate.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, I’d like to go to audience questions. Wow, a lot of people are interested.

    [laughter]

    That’s great, that’s great. Right here in the front.
  • 00:36:49
    Eileen Cowdery:
    Hi, I’m Eileen Cowdery, UVA Darden School of Business. Fascinating discussion. We had a case about the ethics of driverless cars in one of our classes at school, and the conversation focused around scenarios where you have to delegate an ethical decision or question to a driverless car So what are the pros of kind of delegating those decisions to a computer, or cons?

    And maybe who are the winners and losers here?

    Meredith Broussard:
    So, I believe you're referring to the trolley problem, which is a classic ethical dilemma --

    John Donvan:
    Let's tell people very briefly the trolley problem is a scenario. It's sort of classical philosophy proposed in the 1970s, talked about a lot, trolley cuts loose and is goes down a track, the track divides and on one side there's five people standing and on the other side there's one guy standing and somebody has his hand on the lever. He's got to make a decision. Does he push the lever that kills five people or kills one people [sic]. I pretty much nailed it.

    Meredith Broussard:
    Yep.

    John Donvan:
    So, I'm guessing in the issue of the driverless cars is this thing going to be programmed if you're driving down a street and you see a small child to run over the child or to smash into the tree that kills the driver sort of thing, an extreme situation which may or may not be realistic, but --
  • 00:37:52
    Meredith Broussard:
    I'm going to smash into the tree in order to save the small child because young lives are precious. One of the things that we have to do with self-driving cars is program in decisions around these kinds of issues. People who are making these kinds of decisions are not necessarily the people who are best equipped to make these kinds of social decisions.

    John Donvan:
    Who do you think they are?

    Meredith Broussard:
    The engineers who are building the code.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. Let's take --

    Meredith Broussard:
    Are not necessarily the best equipped. Ethics has not been emphasized for an entire generation of engineers and software developers.

    And in fact, we didn't start having a robust conversation about AI ethics and data ethics until the past couple of years. And I would also say that there's a kind of bias at work inside the tech community that I call techno-chauvinism. It's the idea that technology is always a superior solution. And I would argue that in something like the ethical realm the human solution is actually superior. It's not actually a competition, and we should think about using the right tool for the task and for driving humans are actually a really good solution.
  • 00:38:55
    John Donvan:
    Okay. Amitai?

    Amitai Bin-Nun
    There is an ethical dilemma at the heart of driverless drive -- at the heart of self-driving cars and that ethical dilemma is how much do you develop them in private settings before you deploy them to the public.

    You know, maybe at some point soon they are safer than the average human driver, but at that point do you deploy them, or do you wait? Well, the Rand Corporation [spelled phonetically], they did a study and they said well, if you deploy it as soon as they were safer than a human driver and then use the fact that the cars would be on the road and gaining experience and would continue to say over a 50-year period you would save a million lives relative to holding back the cars until you were sure that they were close to perfect. So, I think that is -- you know, that is the big moral dilemma that I'm thinking about and I know what side I'm on. I think spending time and energy on very artificial situations, where you have choice to either swerve and hit something last minute, those very rarely come up and very rarely will the algorithm make the difference.

    So, I think we're going to be spending our energy thinking about the ethics. The ethics need to be around the speed of deployment and how we build support for, you know, the right level.
  • 00:39:52
    John Donvan:
    So, Meredith is saying, Chris, that Silicon Valley the culture that you're part of there is no consideration. There's too little consideration given to ethical questions and what's happening with driverless cars is a prime example of that.

    Chris Urmson:
    Yeah, so I think the premise of that I think is a little unfair, right? It's painting a whole community with one particular brush. So, I guess I just go out -- actually, I talked directly about the heart of the trolley problem. So first, there is no right answer. Right? This is not something like mathematics where there, you know, one plus one equals two. This is something where the right answer is really a function of our society and our values and which life do we hold more precious or not, the government ultimately will have a voice and in the interim we have to do our best to deal with these incredibly rare events. The other part of the question, though, is a little flawed in that, you know, the answer is well, of course I would swerve into the tree to avoid the child in the road. The problem is that in the instant that you have to make that decision we have done studies; reasoning does not get to that level.
  • 00:40:49
    [laughter]

    Chris Urmson:
    So, are you arguing we shouldn't worry about this?

    Ashley Nunes:
    My point is that this is a misnomer. It's a nice academic exercise to engage in, but no regulator would ever sign off on a system that prioritizes one life over another. It has never happened. It will probably never happen.

    Meredith Broussard:
    Yeah. I also don't want my kid out there in a world where there are two-ton killing machine roving around that are programmed to kill children and save the driver. I mean, I'm not okay with that.

    Chris Urmson:
    And I think that's a -- you know, I tend to agree. I would like zero killing machines.

    [laughter]

    I'm all for that.

    [applause]

    But what you forget is that we have them. They are on the road today.

    John Donvan:
    Right in the back there.

    Female Speaker:
    Hi. Stafford Palmieri [spelled phonetically]. I'm with the New York City professional chapter, Brent Warden [spelled phonetically]. There's some researchers at U.C. Davis that have done some research about the environmental impact of driverless cars and their hypothesis is that driverless cars are going to decrease use of public transportation because now it will be easier for you to do work in a driverless car as opposed to taking the train or a bus.
  • 00:42:59
    Do you believe that driverless cars will exacerbate environmental problems and if not, what evidence do you have that that will not occur?

    John Donvan:
    That is such a perfectly phrased question. Thank you for that. Let's take it first to Amitai.

    Amitai Bin-Nun
    Sure. So, now I'm very familiar with that U.C. Davis study and there's one fact that I really want to point out. What they did was they gave people a chauffeur for a week and recorded how much their travel changed when they got access to a free chauffeur for a whole week. But the greatest increase in travel came from older people who went out to social occasions in the evening, older Americans who were homebound because they couldn't travel, especially at night. So, some of that increased travel is going to come from people with disabilities or older people getting to social opportunities and reducing their isolation.

    So, I think that is overall a really good thing.

    [applause]

    In terms of the environmental impact, we did a survey of every company that had a permit to test autonomous vehicle -- self-driving cars in California.
  • 00:43:54
    Around 60 percent were using electric vehicles as their platform, another 20 something percent were using hybrids. Compare that about -- there's about less than 1 percent of the vehicles on our road are electric. Only about 2 to 3 percent are hybrid. So, that tells me that the vehicle of the future, the autonomous -- the self-driving car, is likely to be an electric car and that's going to do a lot to help improve the environmental outcomes.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. Let's let the other side respond. Do either of you want to take on the environmental question?

    Ashley Nunes:
    Well, I'll take Amitai's point.

    John Donvan:
    Ashley Nunes.

    Ashley Nunes:
    Regarding, you know, driverless cars providing access to disabled people. I wanted to come back on this. Companies aren't developing this technology to provide services to disabled people. They're developing this technology to make money and they will price their product at a rate that allows them to recoup the cost of capital. That's number one. Number two, in regard to the environmental benefits of driverless cars, if you think about a powertrain today, if you think about a vehicle, it's about 55 percent. That number fluctuates a little bit. About 55 percent of a vehicle's fuel economy comes from the engine itself.
  • 00:44:52
    About 45 percent comes from what we would call ecofriendly driving practices, things like not hitting the gas, you know, when you're running up towards a red light, things like that. As far as I'm concerned unless you can guarantee that driverless cars will be electrified vehicles, which you can't, you absolutely cannot, realizing the environmental benefits of this technology all else being equal is in my view perhaps not necessarily accurate.

    John Donvan:
    And that concludes round two of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, where our resolution is All Hail the Driverless Car. Making his closing statement in support of the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car, here is Amitai Bin-Nun, regulation expert and vice president of autonomous vehicles at SAFE.

    Amitai Bin-Nun:
    Some of our opponents have suggested that autonomous vehicles either won’t work well, or they may be limited as luxuries, or they’re mainly convenience plays for the rich. Well, history abounds with arguments in advance of new technologies that don’t fully foresee how they’re used, so we don’t fully see the impact before it happens.
  • 00:45:52
    In the late 1940s, AT&T wanted to start using -- wanted to start deploying a cellphone network. And the government wouldn’t allow it and said, “Cellphones are only going to be for the rich. It’s only going to be for convenience; it’s not really going to work. Instead, what we’d like to do is reserve the spectrum for several thousand new TV stations, because that’s what people need.” Well, there were never several thousand new TV stations, and cellphone networks were not permitted until the early 1980s, and we all know what happened from there.

    Self-driving cars will change our transportation system, and they will change people’s lives for the better. History shows, though, that compelling technologies can be delayed if the public doesn’t fully understand its potential, and that doesn’t help draw the technology. So, I am encouraged that polls show that already 50 percent of people are very interested in getting into self-driving cars because we cannot afford to wait another 30 years, or delay by 30 years, the safety and accessibility benefits of self-driving technologies.
  • 00:46:50
    So, let’s not make myopic decisions that don’t reflect what the real potential and excitement of this technology is, so I ask for your vote to hail the self-driving car.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Amitai Bin-Nun. And now, to speak against the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car, here is Ashley Nunes, senior researcher at Harvard Law and MIT.

    [applause]

    Ashley Nunes:
    So, our opponents have spoken very eloquently about the ability of this technology to save lives. Governments agree, investing billions of dollars to give us what we want: the self-driving car. But I propose there is another way. We could, for example, use existing public policies to save lives. We could take a no-tolerance approach to drunk driving, something that has been shown to reduce road fatalities by as much as 18 percent. We could lower speed limits, something that, according to the WHO, has been found to lower road fatalities by as much as 30 percent.

    We could simply ask people to buckle up, something that has been shown to reduce road felt fatalities by as much as 50 percent.
  • 00:47:49
    As stewards of the public purse, our commitment should be to what we need, not what we want.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Ashley Nunes. And the resolution again: All Hail the Driverless Car. And here to make his closing statement in support of the resolution, Aurora co-founder and CEO, Chris Urmson.


    Chris Urmson:
    So, I want to take a moment to talk about someone: Steven Fletcher [spelled phonetically]. He’s the brother of the guy who was the best man at my wedding, the best friend of mine in high school and college. Steven -- Canadian geological engineer -- was driving to a mine in northern Manitoba one morning and hit a moose, he became a quadriplegic. Since then, he has had an incredible career. A cabinet minister in the Canadian government, but every day he is burdened by that challenge of getting from one place to another.

    So, for someone like Stephen this is the kind of technology we cannot live without, whether it would have saved him on that day, or whether it would give him the freedom today.
  • 00:48:51
    My oldest son is in the audience today; he’s 15 and a half. Basically, the last time he rode his bicycle for real he rode into a trash can and crashed and broke his wrist. He’s about to get a driver’s license in six months, and he is --

    [laughter]

    He is a smart, thoughtful, intelligent young man, but if you look at the statistics for people like him, it’s terrifying as a parent. And so, if we can introduce technology that will allow us to not have to have that horrible conversation experience in our lives, that’s profound, profoundly important. Now, the arguments that our opponents have made, and they’ve made them eloquently, are fundamentally that this is hard, that it is hard to build the technology, that it’s going to be hard to build a business around this, that it’s going to be hard to do it right.

    Well, I would quote John F. Kennedy, that we built the self-driving technology not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because the challenge is one we are willing to accept, and we’re unwilling to postpone. All hail the driverless car.
  • 00:49:49
    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Chris Urmson. And our final speaker will be speaking against the resolution, data journalist and author Meredith Broussard.

    Meredith Broussard:
    I’ve heard the same statistic about safety repeated over and over again. On John Croshik’s [spelled phonetically] LinkedIn page, he had the statistic that 95 percent of traffic accidents are caused by humans, and driverless cars are going to reduce this, and then I saw the same statistic repeated on a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration page.

    And I looked at who had made that statistic, and it turns out it was a statistic that was created by a government contractor, and that contractor was a subsidiary of an organization that makes unmanned drones for military use for the U.S. government, and this was making the argument for driverless cars. So, we have a government contractor who stands to profit dramatically from the introduction of autonomous vehicles who is concocting the justification that the government is using for implementing self-driving cars.
  • 00:51:01
    I think that we need to look closely at who is telling us that this is making a safer world, and I think we need to look at what kind of profits are they going to reap from us believing this. Race is a factor in image recognition. Our image recognition systems have a lot of the same blind spots that humans do because humans embed their own biases in the technology, and so we have things like soap dispensers that don’t work for people with darker skin.

    And this scales up; it scales into facial recognition systems, which are better at recognizing men with light skin. They’re better at recognizing men than they are at recognizing women; they’re better at recognizing people with light skin than they are at recognizing people with darker skin.
  • 00:51:52
    Who is going to get hit by self-driving cars, and who is going to suffer as a consequence of having these things on the road?

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Meredith Broussard. And that concludes round three of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I now have the final results.

    Let’s look at the first vote. In the first vote on the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car, 67 percent agreed with the resolution, 18 percent were against it, and 15 percent were undecided.

    In the second vote, the team arguing for the resolution -- their first vote, again, was 67 percent; their second vote was 88 percent. They pulled up 21 percentage points, which is the number to beat. The team against the resolution -- their first vote was 18 percent; their second vote was 10 percent. They lost eight percentage points. That means the team arguing for the resolution All Hail the Driverless Car is named our winners. Our congratulations to them. Thank you from me, John Donvan, and Intelligence Squared U.S. We’ll see you next time.
  • 00:52:49
    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    This U.S. Intelligence Squared U.S. debate was recorded live in New York City, Robert Rosenkranz is our Chairman. Liam Mathhow [spelled phonetically] is Chief Content Officer. Amy Craft [spelled phonetically] is Director of Operations and Production. Shay O'Merra is Manager of Editorial operations. Aaron Dalton [spelled phonetically] and Rob Christenson [spelled phonetically] are the radio producers. Damon Whitemore [spelled phonetically] is the audio engineer. And I'm your host from Intelligence Squared U.S. and me, John Donvan, thanks to all of you.

    [music plays]

    One last thing please, we are asking for your help right now because when you give Intelligence Squared U.S. debates five stars on Apple Podcasts or Google Play you help other people find us. So, if you enjoy our debates, please rate and review us today. I'm sure we agree, America needs reasoned, balanced discussion now more than ever.

    [music plays]

    End Time (
  • 00:53:52
    )

    [end of transcript]
Post-Debate
Winner

For The Motion
88 %
10 %
Against The Motion
2 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
For The Motion
67 %
18 %
Against The Motion
15 %
Undecided
Breakdown
For The Motion
10% - Swung From the Against Side
64% - Remained For the For Side
14% - Swung From Undecided
Against The Motion
7% - Remained For the Against Side
2% - Swung From the For Side
1% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
1% - Swung From the Against Side
1% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Remained Undecided
Post-Debate
Winner

For the Motion
80 %
4 %
Undecided
16 %
Against the Motion
Pre-Debate
For the Motion
68 %
20 %
Against the Motion
12 %
Undecided
Breakdown
For the Motion
4% - Swung From the Against Side
68% - Remained For the For Side
8% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
0% - Swung From the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
4% - Remained Undecided
Against the Motion
16% - Remained For the Against Side
0% - Swung From the For Side
0% - Swung From Undecided
About The Debaters
For The Motion
An image of Amitai Bin-Nun
Amitai Bin-Nun − VP of Autonomous Vehicles, Securing America's Future Energy
Amitai Bin-Nun is a recognized leader in the autonomous vehicles space with expertise in regulation, strategy, and... read bio
An image of Chris Urmson
Chris Urmson − Co-Founder & CEO, Aurora
Chris Urmson is the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, a company that is building self-driving technology to deliver the... read bio
Against The Motion
An image of Meredith Broussard
Meredith Broussard − Data Journalist & Author, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World”
Meredith Broussard is a data journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York... read bio
An image of Ashley Nunes
Ashley Nunes − Senior Research Associate, Harvard Law & MIT
Dr. Ashley Nunes studies transportation safety, regulatory policy, and behavioral economics. He earned his Ph.D. in... read bio
Main Points
For The Motion
  • Autonomous vehicles are safe, sustainable, and energy-efficient. They remove the possibility of human error and can help reduce traffic and pollution.
  • Driverless cars could give humans the gift of time: Instead of operating a vehicle, commuters will be able to focus on conducting meetings, reading, eating, and resting. 
  • For people with physical limitations, transportation presents many obstacles. Driverless cars can solve these problems by providing them with greater accessibility and mobility. 
Against The Motion
  • Trusting technologies to drive at high velocities raises safety concerns, and there are already instances of self-driving malfunctions leading to injuries and even fatalities. 
  • Automation is already hurting American workers and autonomous vehicles could add to this issue, potentially taking jobs away from professional drivers all over the country.
  • It is undesirable to leave an ethical judgement, such as a decision of whether to injure a passenger to save a bystander, up to a robot. Only humans can respond and react to these unique situations.