Examining the News

All the news about driverless cars in 5 charts

Melissa Iskandar


Make no mistake: driverless cars are coming. The details just need some ironing out. 

Companies have been experimenting with autonomous cars since the 1920s. Fast forward nearly 100 years to 2012, when Google’s self-driving car passed a pioneering road test in Nevada. Since then, the cars have popped up in several states, which now permit them, and they regularly make headlines at everything from the Detroit Auto show to CES

At Quid, we wondered: what’s the latest in self-driving cars, and which trends would pop up in a year’s worth of news data about them? 

We used Quid to sift through millions of news stories from the past year and created the map below. 

It makes sense that the largest cluster, Debating dangers of self-driving cars, is closely linked to the cluster around Insurance & liability. Also interesting: Sensors & cameras and Self-driving technologies are central to the network, suggesting that they share language with many other clusters and are at the heart of the overall public discussion of self-driving cars.

Considering that one of its main clusters is about debating dangers and accidents, the sentiment in the network is surprisingly positive.

The past year was packed with big events involving driverless cars, including federal authorities issuing safety guidelines and major auto companies partnering to produce them.  We can see all this in the timeline view below. Some issues -- like debating the dangers -- are persistent throughout the year.

Looking to the future

What happens when we add the word “future” to the search?

The main topics in the Quid network (see below) shift from current crashes and experiments to the world’s plans for how to accommodate and anticipate a future that includes driverless cars.

Note that technology is still central to the conversation, but now the central clusters also include AI and jobs, innovation in design, and the Internet of Things.

Another main cluster in news about the future -- how autonomous vehicles change the art of driving. A theme in stories here is that, as technology takes over tasks and makes daily life ultra-convenient, will humans become lazier? Will they forget not only how to drive but also the pleasure of a long road trip or a NASCAR race? We’ll check back in 10 years.

To be sure, self-driving car technology still has plenty of drawbacks. It could be safer, regulations could be approved faster, and the cars themselves could be made more accessible to more drivers. Engineers could be working on these or related problems for another 100 years. But for now, in just minutes, Quid mapped out the main public conversation around an idea that impacts many industries and whose time has clearly come.

To see more of our analysis on autonomous vehicles and the future of the auto industry, send an email to hi@quid.com.

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