The Madeleine Brand Show for May 28, 2012

Engineering the future: the driverless car

An engineer adjusts a driverless car dur


An engineer adjusts a driverless car during a photocall at the Science Museum, in London on August 11, 2009. The photocall was held to promote a new driverless vehicle, which is part of a fleet currently being tested at Heathrow Airport before opening to passengers next year.

What if instead of being stuck behind the wheel on your Memorial Day road trip, you were relaxing with your family, finishing up an e-book or maybe even napping while a computer drove your car for you?

Google has been road testing a so-called "autonomous vehicle" and major car companies, including Ford, Mercedes and Volkswagen are working on self-driving cars as well.

It's not just cars - engineers are working on tractors that plow and plant fields by themselves, planes that fly without need of pilots and drone helicopters that can perform search and rescue missions.

Missy Cummings joins the show to discuss these technological developments. She studies the relationship between humans, computers and machines at M.I.T.


Missy Cummings is a researcher at M.I.T.

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