Now that I'm back in the Bay Area, I've had a few opportunities to ride in the Waymo self-driving cars. A few thoughts:
1. It feels incredibly futuristic! It's unbelievably cool!
2. At the same time, it feels completely normal. Once you get used to the steering wheel turning by itself, there's no fundamentally new experience. On flights from Boston to Toronto, I'd often spend the entire hour and a half glued to the window, because, holy shit, I'm flying! Compared to that, a self-driving car doesn't really provide that much novelty.
3. The lack of novelty makes the whole experience feel completely natural—it's obvious that this is how cars should be. Obviously there should be no driver, and you should just be shuttled around a city in unmanned pods. How could it ever have been otherwise?
4. Cars feel really, really, big. Since Waymos only drive you from one point in SF to another point also in SF, it feels like they could be tiny—the size of a picnic table on wheels. Full-size cars feel like something built for long-distance inter-city travel; Waymos feel like they should be about 3x smaller.
5. The design of future self-driving cars feels very exciting. Once we get rid of the driver's seat, the entire car can just be a little booth with two sets of padded benches facing each other with a table between them. The whole thing can be surrounded by a glass dome so you can see the whole city. Everything can be great.
6. Non-self-driving cars should probably be banned, at least within city limits, and intra-city cars should be small and never crash into pedestrians or cyclists. This would be very exciting.
7. Also, can't wait to get rid of 1. traffic lights, 2. intersections, 3. the separation of roads into 'car areas' and 'sidewalks'. This will probably require more thinking to pull off successfully, but all those videos of Parisians in 1923 walking around the streets with a few cars puttering around can become reality once again!