Video: Coming Face-to-Nothing with a Driverless Vehicle

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I've heard and read a lot about driverless cars. I've read New Aesthetic essays and listened to Google engineers. I've pondered whether they'll be a net environmental disaster or quite the opposite.

But I'd never had one driving towards me in a parking lot and looked into the driver's seat and seen ... Nothing. I had a very tiny moment of panic that I quickly squelched, gripping my DSLR a little tighter. It was a profoundly weird feeling that I want to share with you. One day (soon?) you'll almost undoubtedly be faced with an invisible robot intelligence maneuvering a vehicle. May this video, which I shot at the Volkswagen Group's Electronics Research Laboratory, help you prepare.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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