Pixar’s ‘Cars’ Is the Future: Autonomous Vehicles Can Now Smile

September 19, 2016

7:15 pm

There’s a fan theory that Pixar’s ‘Cars’ franchise — which features sentient vehicles but no humans in sight — is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which humans are extinct but their AI-powered self-driving cars live on.

Today, we’re one step closer to that disturbingly reasonable future: One self-driving car prototype can now smile at you in order to let you know it’s safe to cross the street.

How It Works

Sweden-based engineering firm Semcon came up with the concept, termed the “Smiling Car”, which you can witness for yourself in the video below, assuming you can spare the time to watch a 7-second clip:

The design will hopefully fill a gap left by the autonomous car’s invention: Without a driver, bystanders can’t make eye contact to assure themselves that the car won’t run them over. Maybe the smile can help councilmen like those two Chicago guys accept that self-driving cars shouldn’t be banned.

Self-driving cars need to communicate trust, a company spokesperson told Fast Company in a recent article that backed up this claim with a few facts:

“In a survey, the company found that less than half of pedestrians trust self-driving cars today. In the U.S., only 15% of respondents said that they would feel “very confident” that a self-driving car in front of them would actually stop.”

Hopefully, the Smiling Car concept will come across as trustworthy: Survey results have neither confirmed nor denied whether audiences pick up on any “why so serious” vibes from a 2-ton vehicle innocently grinning at them.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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