Usage of the phrase was nonexistent in newspapers "until 1961, when it goes straight up and never goes down again," Norton said. "It was introduced by the show and seen by millions of people, who eventually forget it was invented."
Nobody at the wheel
The first commercial self-driving cars may inherit a world already built for automobiles, but they still need to know how to share the road with drivers, bikers and pedestrians, said Peter Stone, director of the Learning Agents Research Group at the University of Texas in Austin. His group has tested its own driverless car alongside simulations to see how intersections could work with self-driving cars.
"I personally bike to work often, so I'm definitely not interested in creating a system where it's not feasible to have bikes on the road," Stone said. "You'll still have traffic signals, so it's not too difficult technically for bikes to approach intersections and have periods of safe passage."
Safer streets seem like a win for everyone. But Norton cautioned that self-driving cars may also blind people to public transportation or walking solutions for towns and cities — especially in a world filled with rising fossil fuel costs, carbon emissions contributing to climate change and urban sprawl.
"We inherited the mental model of getting everywhere in a car alone, and we've adopted so fully that we're envisioning the future like that," Norton said. "But the history of automobiles shows us mental models can change. If we can change the mental model, why not change the future?"
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