Silicon Valley’s Push Into Transportation Has Been a Miserable Failure

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When I first started driving, I had to print out directions from MapQuest before embarking on a trip to unfamiliar destination. If I didn’t plan correctly, I’d just have to stop and ask someone for directions. The smartphone and GPS changed everything. Suddenly, everyone had a little navigator in their pocket, and getting lost became a thing of the past. Then, well, the tech sector kind of stopped improving transportation.

“We were promised flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters,” Peter Thiel famously once said. The irony is that few people were better positioned over the last two decades to make useful, world-changing technology. Instead, Thiel sat on the board at Facebook, expanded the surveillance state at Palantir, and shilled magic internet money. Still, the “we were promised flying cars” catchphrase has persisted as a gripe about our stupid tech toys and a lot of people have continued to promise those flying cars.

In their new book, Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation, Paris Marx takes a look back at all the ways that self-driving cars, micromobility scooters, electric vehicles, and ridesharing services were supposed to make the world a better place but utterly failed to do so. Unfortunately, it seems our tech overlords have actually made a lot of things worse, and their own faith in tech’s ability to solve any problem has left many of them in an untenable situation of moving the goal posts while hoping shareholders get distracted by shiny objects.



Image of driverless car by Google against a city grid background.Image: Gizmodo/Getty/Shutterstock



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