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 with the touch of an app. We will be liberated from driving, prevent over 90% of car crashes, provide freedom of mobility to the elderly and disabled, and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.
Autonomy is the story of the maverick engineers and computer nerds who are creating the revolution. Longtime advisor to the Google Self-Driving Car team and former GM research and development chief Lawrence D. Burns provides the perfectly-timed history of how we arrived at this point, in a character-driven and heavily reported account of the unlikely thinkers who accomplished what billion-dollar automakers never dared.
Beginning with the way 9/11 spurred the U.S. government to set a million-dollar prize for a series of off-road robot races in the Mojave Desert up to the early 2016 stampede to develop driverless technology, Autonomy is a page-turner that represents a chronicle of the past, diagnosis of the present, and prediction of the future—the ultimate guide to understanding the driverless car and navigating the revolution it sparks.
Lawrence D. Burns served as corporate vice president of research, development and planning at General Motors, where he oversaw GM’s advanced technology and innovation programs as well as corporate strategy. He was also a professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan and led the Program for Sustainable Mobility at Columbia University. He has served as an adviser to the Google self-driving car project (now Waymo) since 2011 and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. He lives in Franklin, Michigan.
Christopher Shulgan is a writer who specializes in collaborations with world-renowned experts. His eight books include the bestseller The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter. He lives in Toronto.
“A combination of memoir and visionary manifesto[, Burns’] front-row seat at the project that popularized autonomous cars informs some of the most lively parts of Autonomy.” — Wall Street Journal
“The drama, ambition and genius characterizing the race to develop self-driving cars zoom into sharper focus in Autonomy.” — USA Today
“Anyone interested in learning about how we got to where we are today should definitely grab a copy.” — Forbes
“Fascinating . . . the book really shines . . . in illustrating the complex dynamic between Thrun, Urmson, and Levandowski, the three critical figures in making robot cars a reality. . . [a]rip-roaring story.” — IEEE Spectrum
“With his access to so many players including Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Burns does a masterful job weaving the various strands of his story together. And a juicy story it is, filled with an insider’s first hand experiences and observations. ” — Doron Levin, Forbes
“A provocative look at a rising industry that may soon change the nature of the world’s too-busy roadways.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A compelling read—well-written and packed with insights that could only come from a top-level technology leader who personally knows many of the key players.” — Autonomous Vehicle Engineering
“The coming transformation in mobility will impact numerous industries, from automobile manufacturing to car rentals to logistics. Autonomy chronicles the remarkable story of the innovators leading that change.” — Clay Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma
“A fascinating hybrid: Part freewheeling history of the rise of the modern autonomous vehicle, part intimate memoir from an insider who was on the front lines for much of that history, Autonomy will more than bring readers up to speed on one of today’s most closely watched technologies.” — Brian Merchant, author of The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone
“This is the story of one of those quests will change how we live. Burns was one of the first people to understand the massive implications of driverless cars. His involvement with the players inventing and commercializing this technology makes this book an authoritative preview of the autonomous age.” — John Casesa, Former Group Vice President, Global Strategy, Ford Motor Company
“This book provides compelling insights into major changes taking place today within the automobile and transportation industries. Bonus: It’s a page turner!” — John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo
“A passionate engineer and a pragmatic visionary, Burns also shares his own unexpected ride, from head of R&D for General Motors to being a major player in the drive to reinvent the automobile—and transform what we know as mobility.” — Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize and The Quest and vice chairman of IHS Markit
“Breakthrough technologies always have fascinating origin stories, but we haven’t had a reliable narrator to tell the account of autonomous vehicles until Larry Burns wrote this book. These are absorbing stories within one of the most critical moments in the history of transportation.” — Reilly P. Brennan, General Partner at Trucks Venture Capital and lecturer, Stanford University
“Provides an insider’s view into the who-will-win-it race to invent and control driverless cars—and the radically altered future that will follow. How this future plays out will depend on decisions we make today. This entertaining history makes clear the level of the stakes and the possibilities ahead.” — Robin Chase, cofounder of Zipcar and author of Peers Inc
“A rich and entertaining insider’s account of the evolution of the autonomous vehicle. Should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of mobility.” — Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management and co-author of Playing to Win
“The world’s expert on automobiles takes us on the ride of our times: the invention of self-driving vehicles. An unparalleled view of the birth of autonomous and sustainable mobility. If you want a glimpse of how the future is being engineered, there is no better book than Burns’ Autonomy.” — Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University and Senior UN Advisor on Sustainable Development
“An entertaining and accessible account of the biggest disruption in the history of the auto industry. Burns does a terrific job of recounting the development of the driverless car, explaining in simple terms the key technologies behind it, and detailing the public policy issues and opportunities it presents.” — Rick Wagoner, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors
“Autonomy captures the chaos and triumph of innovation—human intelligence, science, and sweat doing the impossible stuff that changes the world. It’s required reading for anyone who wants to understand the history, the players, and the future of autonomous mobility.” — Adam Jonas, Head of Morgan Stanley Global Autos and Shared Mobility Research
“We are on the verge of a transportation revolution that will dramatically reshape our society. Larry Burns takes the reader behind the scenes of the major events that led us here and offers a visionary picture of where we can go next. Autonomy is a dazzling ride.” — J. Christian Gerdes, Director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford
“Lawrence Burns has been a pioneer throughout his groundbreaking career, and Autonomy provides his enthralling firsthand account of the rise of autonomous vehicles and the power they hold to positively disrupt our economy and transform our way of life. Check it out or risk getting left behind!” — Jeb Bush, 43rd Governor of Florida