Waymo made history on Tuesday, announcing that fully driverless cars—with no one sitting behind the wheel—were already roaming public streets near the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. It's happening way earlier than I expected it would.
Back in 2010, TIMOTHY B. LEE made a bet with the Economist's Ryan Avent. He had an infant daughter and mused on Twitter that she might never need a driver's license since self-driving cars could be commonplace by the time she turned 16 in 2026. Lee was skeptical. He certainly expected self-driving cars to reach American streets eventually, but he thought it wouldn't happen until after 2026.
So they made a bet. Lee says "I haven't officially lost the bet yet because the bet focuses on travel from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. But it seems pretty likely that Waymo will expand to the East Coast long before 2026, and I'll have to pay up."
Lee admits that his big mistake was assuming that, even if the technology became ready by the early 2020s, legal restrictions would hold up its commercial introduction. "The policy debate won't begin in earnest until prototype self-driving cars start to show safety records comparable to human-driven cars," he wrote. "And then, in the best case, there will be several years of foot-dragging by policymakers."
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