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A debate from the Intelligence Squared series, moderated by John Donvan.

What if the next car you buy or taxi you hail drives itself? Driverless cars, also known as autonomous or self-driving vehicles, are currently in test-drive mode around the globe.

Proponents claim this innovation will drastically improve our lives, with fewer auto accidents, less traffic congestion and carbon emissions, as well as greater accessibility for the elderly and those with physical limitations.

Opponents, however, argue that autonomous vehicles will increase traffic, render current infrastructure obsolete and jeopardize millions of auto-related jobs.

Worse yet, they say, these cars are nothing more than a computer-on-wheels, meaning an error in programming by developers, or hacking by nefarious actors, could lead to disaster. Should we proceed with caution? Or embrace the driverless car?

For the motion:

• Amitai Bin-Nun, vice president of Autonomous Vehicles, Securing America’s Future Energy:

“Make no mistake, self-driving cars will change our transportation system, and they will change people’s lives for the better. History shows, though, that compelling technologies can be delayed if the public doesn’t fully understand its potential.”

• Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora:

“I get to stand before you and argue on behalf of a technology that I think will have a profound impact in this century and beyond. It’s one of the most transformational things we’ll experience in our lifetimes.”

Against the motion:


• Meredith Broussard, data journalist and author, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World”:

“We need to look closely at who is telling us that this is making a safer world, and what kind of profits are they going to reap from us believing this.”

Dr. Ashley Nunes, senior research associate, Harvard Law School and MIT:

“If there is one group of Americans that stands to benefit from driverless car technology, it’s poor people, which raises a very interesting question: can poor people afford it? We’ve crunched the numbers, and what we have found is that they cannot.”

This debate is presented in partnership with the Adam Smith Society.

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