Wired editor Alex Davies tells the dramatic, colorful story of the quest to develop driverless cars—and the fierce competition between Google, Uber, and other companies in a race to revolutionize our lives.
The self-driving car has been one of the most vaunted technological breakthroughs of recent years. But early promises that these autonomous vehicles would soon be on the roads have proven premature. Alex Davies follows the twists and turns of this story from its origins to today.
The story starts with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was charged with developing a land-based equivalent to the drone, a vehicle that could operate in war zones without risking human lives. DARPA issued a series of three “Grand Challenges” that attracted visionaries, many of them students and amateurs, who took the technology from Jetsons-style fantasy to near-reality. The young stars of the Challenges soon connected with Silicon Valley giants Google and Uber, intent on delivering a new way of driving to the civilian world.
Soon the automakers joined the quest, some on their own, others in partnership with the tech titans. But as road testing progressed, it became clear that the challenges of driving a car without human assistance were more formidable than anticipated.
Davies profiles the industry’s key players from the early enthusiasm of the DARPA days to their growing awareness that while this spin on artificial intelligence isn’t yet ready for rush-hour traffic, driverless cars are poised to remake how the world moves. Driven explores this exciting quest to transform transportation and change our lives.
Alex Davies is an editor at WIRED, where he oversees a team of writers for the transportation section. He formerly covered transportation full-time as a reporter for Business Insider. Davies covers a wide swath of topics in the world of transportation, including the quest to build Elon Musk’s hyperloop, America’s infrastructure woes, the wild engineering of Formula 1 race cars, and the politics of the transition to electric driving. He lives in Berkeley, California.