Not long ago, cars topped with a futuristic apparatus could regularly be seen cruising along Pittsburgh’s streets, testing technology that allowed the vehicles to get around without a person steering the wheel.
But such car sightings have become rare as the autonomous vehicle sector has refocused from the hype of the 2010s…
Karen Lightman, executive director of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, called it “tech-lash.”
“People react out of fear of technology,” Lightman said.
Although there are challenges for passenger vehicles, Lightman said, the technology is poised to improve people’s lives.
“People who are disabled or don’t have access to reliable, safe transportation can be cut off from the rest of the world. They can’t work, get groceries, go to worship, can’t see friends and family,” Lightman said. “There’s a whole chunk of our country that’s disconnected because we don’t have public transportation that serves them.”
“I’m hoping that we’ll see public transportation also become more automated and autonomous, and shared mobility will be a critical part of it,” she added. “If we end up having more single-occupancy vehicles that happen to be autonomous, we’re not improving quality of life. And if it’s just for the rich elite, that’s not sustainable, either. We have to make sure there’s equity in this.”