When The Atlantic's Adrienne LaFrance asked for historical comparisons to driverless cars from engineers, executives, and other experts, she got mainly three answers. The first two were expected: the airplane and the initial invention of the automobile. The third, however, caught her a little off guard: the elevator. Delving into it, and analyzing it a bit more, though, it turns out that the elevator might be a more-apt comparison than the first two. The elevator changed cities. Literally. The modern vertical city is impossible without the vertical transportation that the elevator provides. Also, the comparison might be a bit off. It isn't so much that "driverless" cars are like the elevator, but cars. When the elevator was first invented, and through about half of its total existence, it was a manually operated vehicle requiring a human being manning the controls. Then came automation and buttons replacing the person standing in the corner. The automobile started out (and still is) as a manual device needing an operator. But now we see a possible future where drivers are replaced by "buttons" as well. Buttons in elevators, and now intelligent systems to more efficiently move people vertically through tall buildings, changed how tall we can build and how desirable those higher floors are to work and live on. How will "buttons" driving cars change traffic on the street level?
Read Adrienne LaFrance's full story at The Atlantic.
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