What We Did When We Gave Up Horses For Cars

Did you know that for most of the last 5000 years or so we had intelligent, self driving transportation?

Horses are pretty smart. You can climb back on your horse, blind drunk after a night out in the tavern, and it’ll take you back home safely – provided that the tavern you’re in was your regular haunt. If you were a milkman and you had a regular route, after the first few months with a new horse you can read on the job. It’ll automatically stop in front of all of your houses, which was your cue to hop off and deliver the milk, and then when you hop back on with the empties the horse will just automatically resume walking to the next house, and you can resume reading your newspaper.

For various reasons we decided to switch our horses out for cars sometime around the 40s.

One cool way of thinking about this is as humanity making a strategic bet. We invented this new thing that got rid of both the extremely good (self driving ability) and extremely bad parts (horse tantrums, bad smells) of horse-as-transportation. And we’re betting that we’ll make this new thing better over time, slowly capturing back the good things we lost while all of the downsides stay removed.

In San Francisco today there’s a ride-hailing service that use a fleet of self-driving cars. California approved them for the road 115 years after the release of the Ford Model T spelled demise for working horses everywhere. Compared to the thousands of years we spent domesticating the horse, that’s like the blink of an eye. And they can even take you home from a new tavern you’ve never been to before!

All that’s left now is to give our cars soft pettable muzzles and the ability to gently eat carrots from your hand.

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