As technology for autonomous vehicles advances, what are the implications - socially, morally, and economically?
Noted autonomous car journalist and writer Tamara Warren asks, in reference to the phrasing of "autonomous cars" - "Whose autonomy are we talking about?" Is it our autonomy as humans? Or the cars' autonomy? There's a sense of fear about "the other" of an autonomous vehicle. You can't read the body language of a car.
A fascinating experiment that's profiled is Andy Schaudt's "seat suit" tests, where he's developed a concealment for a human inside the seat of a car to gauge reactions and body language of pedestrians who "think" they are interacting with an autonomous vehicle. They are developing a "new language" for these autonomous vehicles to convey interaction - in hopes that this language will be universal enough to translate cross-vehicle and prevent pedestrian harm.
Eddie Alterman, editor of CAR+DRIVER magazine, provides commentary and insights throughout the film. He talks about the impact of Detroit as being seen as unsophisticated and of the past, similar to cars in and of themselves, as compared to them to Silicon Valley and software, which are seen as fast-paced and futuristic. However, he feels that cars are surprisingly complex and important to engineer. He's quoted as saying that Chrysler,
GM and Ford car releases were the "Apple product launches of their day."
These autonomous vehicles are bringing up new worlds of opportunity for people who may be unable to drive for a variety of reasons. For example, the film talks to "The Steamers" - a group of senior citizens who are retired STEM professionals who live in an assisted living home called Friendship Village in Arizona, which has become the leading state for autonomous cars. Their experience and willingness to embrace new technology is similar to that of another person profiled, teenager Kylo: she and her friends love Waymo vehicles, and she doesn't have a driver's license. It seems increasingly unlikely that they will ever get driver's licenses.
Malcolm Gladwell, the producer of the film, provides commentary throughout. From his thoughts on regulation to mass transit, the art of the automobile to travel efficiencies, he shares his thoughts and insights on this important field.
These are complicated ideas, exciting ideas, and the viewer is left to take in all of them - along with gorgeous footage of cars of past, present, and concept cars of the future.
You can stay updated on the film's upcoming screenings and release details on the official AUTONOMY site.
And of course - the film wraps on the perfect note.