Self-driving cars as a test of Luddite-predictions

When great technological advances are predicted, they are often paired with predictions of neo-Luddism. As I wrote in my book Posthumanity(See pg 75-77), I don’t anticipate much of it, for the reason that we haven’t seen much of it so far.

We can see this in the reaction to self-driving cars. I’m an optimist on self-driving cars, although I was skeptical of the likelihood they would arrive as soon as certain boosters said they would. When Waymo announced they would have a self-driving taxi without a backup driver by the end of 2018, I predicted it wouldn’t happen and made a bet with Scott Alexander about it, which I won.

Why didn’t Waymo go through with it? It wasn’t because of the law. Currently, fully driverless cars are legal in 4 states, and most states allow them with a backup driver.


Now, there’s still plenty of time for the Luddite-predictors to be right on this issue, maybe states will crack down once they stop being cool theoretical technology and actually start threatening people’s jobs. Still, the state deeming them safe before the company deems them safe is not what you’d have expected them to predict.

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