I am really looking forward to a time when cars are really driverless for only one reason. They will save lives. We should see a dramatic reduction in traffic accidents as well as improvements in commuting time and fuel efficiency. At the same time, I hope we never lose the ability or the opportunity to drive our own car. The act of driving is a special kind of pleasure, as long as there is an open road ahead.


Driverless cars are coming to a street near you, and soon. “I think that genuine self-driving cars will be available within a decade and that they’ll be big game changers,” writes Kevin Drum, who’s been on a driverless-car kick lately. Or take it from Dan Gage, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers: “That fully autonomous car of the future is not that far away.” Or just watch this:

Google has been testing driverless cars extensively. Nevada and California have passed legislation permitting them on the streets. Other states will soon follow suit. This is a near-future thing, not a sci-fi dream.

I happen to share Drum’s enthusiasm for driverless cars, and want to use it to make a larger point about social change.

Widgets and systems

Let’s think about the distinction between widgets (pieces of technology) and systems (the cultural, economic, and infrastructural systems in which technologies…

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