A note from head Carsplainer Kristen:
A few years ago, I was at an event — LA Auto Show? ITS conference? I don’t remember — where three panelists were sharing the stage. It happened to be two women and a man, and they were talking about the potential uses of automotive technology in the near future. They were all engaging, enlightening, knowledgeable speakers.
At one point in the conversation the man, who was African-American and wearing a light taupe suit, leaned forward and said with a bit of a laugh to his co-presenters, “Autonomous taxis aren’t racist. They’ll go into neighborhoods human drivers avoid and they’ll pick up whoever called them.”
Or something to that effect. My memory of his exact words is likely faulty, but his meaning was clear: transportation technology has a more important life outside the cool-for-the-sake-of-cool Silicon Valley tech silo. It can mean access.
Since that presentation, these are the stories I’ve been most interested in. How do driver assistance systems help older drivers stay safe? How do transit apps help the blind get around more easily and quickly? How would a ride sharing service for kids enable a working family to give those kids more extracurricular opportunities?
US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is himself a big believer in access through technology. It’s brought up several times in the NHTSA guidelines for autonomous vehicles that was released in September 2016. If it’s going to work, it has to work for everybody.
But consumers are afraid of this technology, as poll after poll have shown in the last couple of years. They don’t understand it, they think they can drive better than a robot (they can’t), and they won’t use it. Until they do use it. Then, the polls show, people tend to embrace it.
Thus Carsplaining. We aim to bring understanding and acceptance of beneficial transportation technologies to regular people, not tech dudes. We are optimistic, but we’re not naive. If something seems sketchy, exclusively expensive, or unsafe, we’ll talk about that too.
There’s a lot of potential in the future of automotive technology, but being afraid of it or dismissive of it could leave a lot of people on the sidelines when we want them in the center. Those are exactly the people we want using it and telling manufacturers and developers how to improve it so more people have more access to more places.
Carsplaining is planting its flag in the Utopian ground of more access through better tech. Optimists can join us in their shared autonomous electric pods.