One of the most interesting things about new technology is how people interact with it once it's let loose in the ecosystem. There are millions of ways that flawed, messy, sometimes inconsiderate humans can mess up a perfectly good utopian scenario.
Take autonomous cars, the next big perfect-society plan coming our way. People already are able to hail a self-driven Uber in parts of Pittsburgh. Right now, there's an engineer behind the wheel who can step in if anything goes wrong. In theory, that engineer also can make sure the human passengers are behaving.
"The good news is the technical solutions are happening," said David Lyon, co-founder of Pocket Square Design and a former General Motors designer. "But the human problem is just beginning."
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are running an online research study called the Moral Machine, which asks people to weigh in on how autonomous cars should make ethical decisions, such as should the car swerve to save pedestrians if that means everyone in the car would die? Should it swerve to avoid a cat? A pregnant woman? A criminal?
At Automotive News, we began pondering what happens when cars don't need drivers anymore, and it led us down a rabbit hole. We looked not at life-or-death issues or technical hurdles so much as the more mundane problems that could confound the the most idealistic proponents of autonomous cars and taxis.
We hope there are people in the industry who are focusing on some of these problems. Especially the smelly ones.