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Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World
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Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  694 ratings  ·  98 reviews
An automotive and tech world insider investigates the quest to develop and perfect the driverless car—an innovation that promises to be the most disruptive change to our way of life since the smartphone

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution. Soon, few of us will own our own automobiles and instead will get around in driverless electric vehicles that we summon
ebook, 368 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Ecco
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Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you own a car, you know what a headache and huge responsibility (not to mention expense!) they can be. If you rely on public transportation, you know how limiting and unreliable it is (at least in most places in the USA) and how long you often have to wait. It's difficult for most of us to get around without our own vehicle, and yet we have to invest a lot in them. Imagine if you could have all the benefits of owning a car, with none of the responsibilities. Interested? Read on.

Autonomy: The
Peter Tillman
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
Tech history, starting with the DARPA self-driving challenge races in 2004. His info is good; his writing is, well, adequate. But the material pretty much makes up for that. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the fluff and filler. Book needed a more critical final edit, which you, the reader, will have to supply.

For an old GM guy, the author sure is anti-personal car, and anti-gasoline. And he goes on, and on, and on. Big cars! One driver! Unused 95% of the time! Yada, yada.

Early self-driving players
Sep 28, 2018 added it
Shelves: computing
I was at the Urban Challenge in 2007 (still have the T shirt). It was amazing standing next to the road watching cars and trucks go by with no one in them, including 32,000-pound TerraMax, which had to be deactivated before it took out a building. The MIT entry kept braking for shadows across the road.

One car was confused about something and came to a stop. Another car started going around it, and as soon as it started pulling in front, the stopped car decided to go, and there was a low speed c
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Want to understand autonomous cars? Start here

No, seriously. This book goes all the way back to concept cars like Sandstorm and Autonomy to today's developers like Tesla, Uber and Waymo. Complete with the office politics, the engineering and the political problems.

I also recommend reading "The Upstarts" as a companion to this book. Helps when I read that one first.

However, this book never really addresses the issue of what will happen to public transit. Food for thought left to your imagination
Joonas Kiminki
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written view into the past, present and future of mobility. I hugely enjoyed the fluent storytelling and balanced handling of the topics covered, respecting the accomplishents of both Detroit and Silicon Valley.

I don’t always rate my books ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ but when I do, they deserve it. This story changed my perception for good, even if I admit being looking for such perspective update.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book focuses too much on the author's personal experience working with the Google team and downplays or glosses over almost all others' contributions. ...more
Jeff Kim
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant account of the past, present and future of Autonomous Vehicles and the transport system.

The author makes the point that the auto industry has largely remained unchanged in its 130 year history. Current vehicles are still ape-driven, addicted to oil, unnecessarily bulky, sit idle 90% of the time and devilishly expensive to own and maintain. They are not ideal for city transportation factoring their size and dangerous speeds. Everything about them screams waste.

The auto industr
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I saw Lawrence Burns speak on the concept of autonomy (the confluence of electric vehicles, self-driving technology, and transportation-as-a-service) and was intrigued enough to pick up the book.

Overall, it's an animated and engaging narrative of the major players who developed the world's first autonomous vehicles. I loved his stories about the DARPA 2004 challenge to build a vehicle that could cross the Mojave Desert without a human driver. He made a great point:
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting history of the development of self-driving vehicles from the beginning of the idea around 2000 up to the beginning of 2018 by one of the key engineer executives working on the designs.
I wish there were a good deal more about the actual technology, rather than just the companies and people involved.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read> This will change your view of the future. Highly recommend.
Farhan Lalji
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're interested in autonomous vehicles and the future of automobiles then this is a great read. Found it engaging and enlightening. ...more
Brian Ferrell
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insider look at the self driving car industry for nerds who are into that.
Lasse Larsen
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Larry Burns, an industry insider obsessed with reinventing the automotive industry, serves as a great narrator.
The story shifts between his personal accounts and introductions to the major players in the AV field.

Also provides a decent overview of the main technical and ethical considerations when designing autonomous vehicles.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a good read on the history and major players in the AV space. My major complaint is that the author only acknowledges the positive AV scenario, but doesn’t consider things such as more vehicle miles traveled due to the fact that the car is driving for you, or potentially worse congestion depending on how ownership plays out. Google “heaven or hell autonomous vehicles” for a more balanced perspective.
Ken Hamner
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I’ve read about emerging technologies and the impact they will have. Highly recommended.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Autonomy : The Quest to Build the Driverless Car - And How It Will Reshape Our World (2018) by Lawrence D Burns and Christopher Shulgan is the first insider account of efforts by big companies to create self-driving vehicles. 

Burns worked for decades for General Motors and was a Vice President there and he has a PhD so he knows GM and Detroit intimately. He also points the billions of dollars that Detroit has poured into research for fuel cells and other technology. 

This book looks at the way th
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The definitive history of AVs to date

if you want to understand where we are and how we got here, read this book. Balances technical and non technical concepts well. Tells the story of all the key milestones with first hand accounts in many cases. Burns himself has had a front row seat and makes this far more engaging as a result. A couple minor bits seem excluded, such as shift away from Google's custom vehicle, firefly.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it

The book is full of great stories and Burns’s first-person account of what happened in the development of autonomous and non-gas vehicles. It also tells stories about some of the key contributors to the technology--Chris Urmson, Red Whittaker, Sebastian Thrun, Anthony Levandowski, and others. The book combines these anecdotes with reflections on technical and economic changes affecting the automobile industry.

Burns is an advisor to Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary. He worked
Tim Dugan
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good info

But why are electrics so rare? Why no self driving? Those are the obvious questions

But also, he said electric cars will be cheaper....why is Tesla so damn pricy?

And one of the things a fleet of taxis won’t handle: rush hour. This has to be solved by better mass transit. Here in houston—everywhere?—it sucks

Jim Duncan
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cannot say enough good things about this book. Have recommended it to colleagues and family members. Bought copies for my sons since this book makes a compelling argument for alternative fuels, transportation on demand and autonomous vehicles.
Alex Woodmansee
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Autonomy: The Quest to build the driverless car was an intriguing novel that depicted the development of self-driving cars over the last few decades. This book was given to me by my dad who thought I might enjoy reading about it since I like cars, so i decided to give it a read. The author, Lawrence D. Burns, was a former General Motors executive and current advisor to the Google self-driving car project which gave him valuable insight into the development of the driverless car revolution.
The b
Senthil Kumaran
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book reminded me of "The Road Ahead" by Bill Gates. This is an impressive account on Self Driving Technology, that is about to come and consume us in the near future. The book is very well written. Initially, I had plenty of doubts on the author, Lawrence D Burn's style, thinking that he was one of the pure management type guys, looking at things in a disconnected way, trying to associate himself with changes brought about by others. I was proven wrong. This attitude transformed into respec ...more
Carolyn Lochhead
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
It felt very timely to read this book now, both because it feels like we’re in the middle of a shift from one era to another, as we grapple with keeping the world going despite COVID-19, and because I’ve just bought an electric car, so have been thinking a lot about the impact of cars on the environment.

In truth, this book probably had a bit too much engineering detail for me, so I won’t pretend I studied every word closely. But the bits that interested me were those that focused on the ineffici
Guillaume Boisset
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Burns is a former GM exec who for years engaged in the thankless task of reforming the company from within, to steer it toward a greener future. He scored some successes by securing GM sponsorship of prestigious teams in autonomous driving competitions in the early 2000’s, but ultimately inertia of the old guard combined with economic downturns and bankruptcy convinced him that he could effect more change by being outside of GM than staying within.
This is a riveting insider tale of the first dec
Dennis D.
Larry Burns shares the compelling story of the ongoing quest to bring fully driverless transportation technology to the mass-market. He does a great job of relating everything that went on behind the scenes to bring this technology into existence, much of it through first-person accounts. He also very forthrightly explains why this tech is necessary, by shining a bright light on the inefficiencies of the U.S. car-based system: there’s a .8 to 1 ratio of drivers to cars, most cars sit idle for 22 ...more
Synthia Salomon
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I own a car and most of the time I drive it, I am the only one in it, or along with my daughter. My husband has his own car, too and although we are a small family of 3 we have busy schedules where 1 car wouldn’t suffice. There was a time when I used public transportation, but as a teacher, I need to be punctual. According to Blinkist, “The way we use gas-guzzling vehicles today is akin to madness. They are dangerous, inefficient and environmentally catastrophic. The future belongs to automation ...more
Nicholas Su
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Surprisingly good read despite my bias as someone critical of the self-driving car hype. Burns is a great narrator since he has experience with silicon valley, traditional automotive, and the DARPA challenge that sparked the quest for automated driving. The narrative is compelling and not as over-hyped as I expected.

Some key takeaways for me were how the founders established Waymo's reputation as very safety-oriented, the way Google/Uber discussion breakdown in 2014 prompted Uber to begin devel
Zaki Ulfauzi
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
a long journey summed up in one 300+ pages book by automobile-tech genius Mr.Lawrence Burns. showing how the greatest engineers in this half-century working together disrupted one of the most conservative industries. bringing back the spirit of Mr.Ford who at first made the mass vehicle production available to give everyone the same opportunity to mobilize faster conveniently. the group of engineers successfully disrupted the industry by realizing Detroit that the main idea of the automobile ind ...more
Rishabh Srivastava
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
A book about by GM's former VP of R&D and adviser to Waymo on how self-driving cars might affect the future. I took a fair number of notes in the first half of the book – but was disappointed by the second half.

The book was interesting. The first half focused on the history of self-driving cars (mostly pre-2008) as well as electric vehicles. The second half focused far too much on internal company politics and petty arguments between individuals (IMO). I get that the author doesn't like Anthony
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
An early retrospective history of the development of the first generation of truly autonomous vehicles.

The book is an interesting mix of policy discussion, popular technology, and character portraits of the "great persons" who were pivotal in the early days of the technology.

I found it particularly interesting to read his profiles of the people who started as passionate amateurs, and have gone on to found the current heavyweights of the AV space worth billions of dollars each.

If there is a weak
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