An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Video: Beyond the Driverless Car

  • Julie Fox
  • Slice of MIT

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Anthony Townsend PhD ’03 thinks it’s underselling the potential of automated vehicles to focus public discussion so intently on the vehicles themselves. At the same time, many of us are glossing over the risks and complications “by deluding ourselves that it’s all going to sort of play out the way it plays out in Elon Musk’s TED talks,” says Townsend in this recording from a recent Faculty Forum Online.

Townsend is joined in this video by Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, to discuss how cities and urban innovation are poised to change in the years ahead with the advance of driverless vehicles.

Both speakers note that the implications of autonomous vehicle technology will have a big impact on the way people live and move, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic. “I think it’s going to be one of the most important tools we have in allowing us to reorganize cities,” Townsend explains. “So that we can flexibly come together and spread apart when it is safe or not safe to do so, to keep the glue that binds cities together working, even when we have to spread out a little bit, and maybe bridge some of those gaps even when we cannot do it physically.”

The speakers answer questions from the virtual audience of MIT alumni about safety and responsibility issues related to driverless cars, whether the pandemic has slowed the development of autonomous vehicles, and how cities can collaborate and harness data.

The talk was moderated by Anil Ananthaswamy, 2019–20 MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow.

Watch more archived Faculty Forum Online webinars, and register for upcoming MIT Alumni Association virtual programming.

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