Lauren Goode: How often would you say that you see a car without a driver just cruising around San Francisco these days?
Michael Calore: I would say at least a dozen a day.
Lauren Goode: A dozen.
Michael Calore: I usually commute by bike, and I have a 3-mile commute to the office and a 3-mile commute home. This morning I counted. I knew we were talking about this today. I didn’t know you were going to ask this question, but I counted five.
Lauren Goode: OK. I counted three yesterday in about a 15-minute drive home.
Michael Calore: That’s a lot.
Lauren Goode: And you’re probably seeing more than me because you are traveling on bike.
Michael Calore: Yeah, probably. And also I live in a part of town where they seem to be everywhere.
Lauren Goode: What do you think when you see them?
Michael Calore: Honestly, I don’t mind them. They’re very cautious. They’re very polite. They don’t yell at me, and they’re not looking at their phone. I feel OK about them. How do you feel?
Lauren Goode: Honestly, it’s a little weird, but I hear Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” in my head when I see them. It’s almost as though I’m constructing a TikTok video as I’m driving, but I don’t want to be on TikTok while I’m driving, so I’m not actually doing that. But I’m putting together this montage in my head of all the self-driving cars I’ve seen in recent history, and I just keep thinking about that song. It’s weird, right?
Michael Calore: Yeah. I think it’s never not weird to see a car without a driver rolling down the road, but I think we’re all going to have to get used to it because it is the future. I don’t think that I would’ve had that opinion five years ago, but after sharing the roads with many cars without drivers behind the wheel, I do think we’re going to have to get used to it as city people, especially here in California, because of some news that’s happening this week.
Lauren Goode: Oh, we should talk about that.
Michael Calore: Let’s do it.
[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]
Lauren Goode: Hey everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED.
Michael Calore: And I’m Michael Calore. I’m a senior editor at WIRED.
Lauren Goode: And we’re joined this week by WIRED staff writer, Aarian Marshall, who we often bring on to talk about all things transportation, Seattle baseball, Elon Musk. We’re going to be talking about at least one of those things today, right Aarian?
Aarian Marshall: Those are all of my interests. Hopefully we cover some of those.
Lauren Goode: Puppies, podcast microphones. I mean, really it’s quite varied.
Aarian Marshall: Absolutely.
Lauren Goode: Aarian, the self-driving cars, they have taken over, and by taking over in our small corner of the world, San Francisco, we are seeing them everywhere, but they’re also in Arizona. They’re expected to show up in Los Angeles soon, and they’re probably going to expand a lot more from there. First we were hoping you would set the stage for us. Why after years and years of hearing about this totally driverless future, we have now seemingly arrived at this moment?