An Interview With Self-Driving Visionary Larry Burns, Co-Author of ‘Autonomy’

Q. You begin the book with the early DARPA Challenges, a series of government funded robotics competitions that validated the fundamental concepts of self-driving vehicles. You introduce us to people like Carnegie Mellon’s Red Whittaker, Chris Urmson, Bryan Salesky, Sebastian Thrun, who helped launch Google’s self-driving car project, and others. Why did you start there ?

Larry Burns: The reason I wrote this book was I just felt there were so many people who played a part in this once-in-a-century revolution in transportation that were at risk of being forgotten. The story needed to be told about the people who put the blood, sweat and tears into not just driverless cars, but connected vehicles and ZipCar. When they made their decision that was a high-risk, unproven, courageous thing to do. My dream is that there’s a 9th grader somewhere who picks up the book, maybe with the encouragement of a teacher or their involvement in FIRST Robotics and they see the Urmsons and Saleskys as their role model.