Gadget Lab Podcast: The Very Human Element of Self-Driving Cars

One of the greatest ironies in this still-nascent era of self-driving cars is that humans are the backup safety drivers for these autonomous systems, while the systems themselves are supposed to replace human drivers and all our follies. Earlier this week, a preliminary report from the NTSB indicated that the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman in Arizona earlier this year, did in fact “see” the woman in the seconds before the crash occurred. Transportation writer Aarian Marshall and editor Alex Davies join the Gadget Lab podcast this week to discuss the issues that surround “software that’s not yet ready to replace humans, and humans that are ill-equipped to keep their would-be replacements from doing harm.” And of course, we couldn’t have a conversation about the future of transportation without talking about Elon Musk.

Show notes: Here’s Aarian’s and Alex’s story on the preliminary report about the car crash back in March involving an Uber self-driving car. Also, Alex writes about the follies of humans act as backup safety drivers, while Aarian lays out California’s heavy-handed plans to regulate autonomous vehicles.

Recommendations this week: Alex has hopped aboard the password manager train (had to get a transpo reference in there) and recommends LastPass. Aarian said she needs space–as in the Space app, which forces you to take a breather before you open that addictive social media app for the 100th time. Lauren recommends Bad Blood, the new book about Theranos, with one caveat: She hasn’t read the book yet. But based on the book excerpt we ran in WIRED this week, she thinks it’s going to be a doozy.

Send this week’s hosts feedback on their personal Twitter feeds. Lauren Goode is @laurengoode, Aarian Marshall is @AarianMarshall and Alex Davies is @adavies47. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. Our theme song is by Solar Keys.

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