Robot Take the Wheel smJoin us as Jason Torchinsky, author of "ROBOT, TAKE THE WHEEL: The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Lost Art of Driving" talks about the future of autonomous cars.

Saturday, July 20 - 1:30 pm (this talk is included with museum admission)

A book signing will follow.


The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Lost Art of Driving- JASON TORCHINSKY

Right now, Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and pretty much every major automotive manufacturer is in the race to design cars that can drive themselves. In ROBOT, TAKE THE WHEEL: The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Lost Art of Driving, author Jason Torchinsky—senior editor of Jalopnik, producer for Jay Leno’s Garage, star of Jason Drives, stand-up comic, and passionate driver—offers an expert view on the coming age of self-driving cars and its implications far beyond transportation.

“We need to start looking at autonomous cars as something separate from cars if we want to get a sense of what their future may hold and how that future may affect us and our culture,” Torchinsky asserts. “If we take a step back to get a wider perspective, we can see that once fully autonomous cars are developed and sold to the public in a meaningful quantity, this will represent the first truly large deployment of large-scale, highly mobile robots into human society. These are not Roombas, scuttling under couches, foraging for Dorito fragments; these will be machines weighing close to two tons, fully capable of ending a human life.”

Torchinsky isn’t an alarmist. He accepts autonomous cars as an imminent reality, for much better— including environmental benefits and, thanks to the end of sleep-deprived, substance-impaired, and rageprone humans behind the wheel, significant gains in safety—as well as for worse. To help readers get a grip on the road ahead, he imagines what autonomous vehicles will mean to us and how they’ll change our world. Drawing on automotive history, the evolution of technology, cultural trends, and the author’s own sense of wonder and adventure, ROBOT, TAKE THE WHEEL contemplates:

-- The path from relying on actual horse power to empowering vehicles to drive themselves, with stops to marvel at milestones such as the purely concept (but still cool) 1956 GM Firebird II: the first car to present the idea of real autonomy to the public.

-- The operating mechanics of self-driving cars, covering the inner-workings of hardware—ultrasonic sensors, cameras, radar, lidar, GPS—and the key to a smooth and safe autonomous drive: keeping the car clean.

-- Why “semi-autonomy is stupid” (in Torchinsky’s informed opinion) and what fully autonomous cars (aka robots) could conceivably do for us—running errands, delivering food, patrolling neighbors and cracking down on crime—besides driving without us.

-- The uncharted terrain of driverless etiquette and ethics. Will self-driving cars behave better than human drivers—or cut each other off? Will they be able to adapt, deal with unpredictable pedestrians, and follow unwritten local traffic rules?

-- The new face of driverless cars—smaller and cuter than the cars we know, quite likely looking less like cars and more like pets. While marking the death of the SUV, driverless cars could herald the birth of state-of-the-art self-driving mobile homes.

-- The cultural, social, and emotional tolls of the coming revolution in transportation, from a shift away from learning to drive as an essential skill and rite of passage to the loss of the freedom of getting in your car and driving—to nowhere. Torchinsky’s newsflash: “You’re not going to be able to jump in a robotic car and tell it just to go for a drive and see what happens.”

Like cellphones before them, autonomous cars will change the world as we know it. In ROBOT, TAKE THE WHEEL, Jason Torchinsky offers an insightful, informed, funny, occasionally irreverent, take on the looming twists, turns, and tradeoffs in a way that makes the road ahead less daunting and more livable— even for people who love to drive.


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