Fu­ture Tense

Newsweek - - Editor’s Letter -

back in the mid-1980s, when i was a re­porter cov­er­ing tech­nol­ogy, I in­ter­viewed an en­gi­neer about a wonky-sound­ing project. He was try­ing to es­tab­lish a “pro­to­col” for ex­chang­ing in­for­ma­tion that would al­low en­gi­neers to con­nect com­puter net­works to other com­puter net­works. I ar­gued for a cover story; my ed­i­tors gave it two pages in the back of the mag­a­zine.

That en­gi­neer was Bob Kahn, now widely known as one of the founders of the in­ter­net, which is what his project even­tu­ally be­came. I didn’t re­al­ize at the time how big that story would turn out to be; it’s eas­ier to see in hind­sight, of course, how dra­mat­i­cally tech­nol­ogy can change the world. The present mo­ment of­fers a chance to make amends. This week, we re­port on an­other new tech­nol­ogy—au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles—that many knowl­edge­able peo­ple be­lieve will have a trans­form­ing ef­fect on how we travel and how we live.

Tens of thou­sands of Avs—cars that can drive them­selves—have al­ready been built and are wait­ing to hit the streets in the next few years. As David H. Freed­man re­ports in our cover story, driver­less cars have the po­ten­tial to vastly in­crease mo­bil­ity, make our cities and sub­urbs more liv­able and fix many of the ills of our cur­rent re­liance on au­tos, such as traf­fic, fa­tal­i­ties and pol­lu­tion. Or they could make these prob­lems even worse, de­pend­ing on how wisely we make pol­icy de­ci­sions in the next few years. To call at­ten­tion to these is­sues, Newsweek teamed up with the Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy to hold a sem­i­nar, “How Driver­less Cars Will Change the World,” on De­cem­ber 12 at 9:15 a.m. EST in At­lanta. If you can’t make the trip, tune in to our we­bi­nar, which we will live-stream at Linkedin.com/com­pany/newsweek.

This spe­cial re­port is part of a long Newsweek tra­di­tion of high­light­ing po­ten­tially trans­for­ma­tive tech­nolo­gies be­fore the dis­rup­tion they’ll cause is widely un­der­stood. As it might say on the mir­ror of a driver­less car, our fu­ture is closer than it ap­pears. —Fred Guterl, spe­cial pro­jects edi­tor

Tens of thou­sands of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles—cars that can drive them­selves—have al­ready been built and are wait­ing to hit the streets in the next few years.

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