What risks are we willing to accept for a world of self-driving cars?

Burns later agreed to sponsor a team from Carnegie Mellon as it embarked on the biggest challenge yet: piloting an autonomous vehicle through an urban environment. This is not exactly the realm of “The Right Stuff.” Here we have slow-moving cars bumbling through parking lots and patiently navigating four-way intersections. But you can sense the excitement in Burns, an engineer at heart, as the team works through the night in unheated trailers in Pittsburgh winters on what would eventually be the winning entry: a modified Chevy Tahoe, named Boss, that successfully completed the 60-mile course.

For Burns, this was more than a proof of concept, it was a nascent revolution, the sort of mobility disruption he hoped to see: He longed not only to take the internal combustion engine out of the vehicle but to remove the driver.