The lonely, dangerous life of a self-driving car babysitter

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The lonely, dangerous life of a self-driving car babysitter

Keeping watch on an autonomous vehicle sounds simple, but can be exhausting and potentially lethal

Olivia Rudgard

At a junction in downtown Detroit, a self-driving car stops beside a pedestrian waiting to cross. Without touching the car, an electric shuttle operated by start-up May Mobility, its safety driver Andrew Dykman confidently waves the man across the road.

“I have a pretty good idea of what the car is going to do at any time. So I’m letting him know that it’s waiting for him. I guess it just comes from experience,” he explains.

When a car in Uber’s self-driving testing fleet struck and killed a woman in Arizona in 2018, images of the safety driver were beamed around the world. The woman, Rafaela Vasquez, appears to be looking down before gasping in shock and grabbing the wheel as the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, is hit. A police report concluded that she had been watching The Voice on her phone...

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