Boston has a reputation for complicated roads (true), bad weather (also true), and terrible drivers (false, as anybody who’s been south of the Mason Dixon can tell you.) Still, the city’s ridiculous roads and even more ridiculous weather make it perfect for introducing self-driving cars to the reality of day-to-day driving self-driving cars. So, the city of Boston will soon be full of autonomous cars, hoping to learn from its drivers.
The startup doing this, nuTonomy, is sticking to South Boston because they want the weird roads and ugly weather for their Mitsubishi electric vehicles. Most self-driving cars have been gently coddled by the sunny weather and sensitive hippies and technocrats of Southern California, so dealing with Boston, a city that runs entirely on defensive driving and where jaywalking is the city’s pastime, will be a useful way for self-driving cars to learn how roads actually work.
Joking aside, this will be an interesting experiment, not least because we’re not kidding about the defensive driving — something self-driving cars arguably need to learn before they get on the road. Still, it does raise the question of why Boston, a city struggling with transportation infrastructure problems in the first place, needs even more cars on the road. Anybody who’s been on the road, or just tried to walk across one in Boston can tell you the city needs fewer cars, not more. Hopefully as self-driving cars catch on, drivers choose them instead of continuing to hold on to the tradition of driving that the city is known for.