Self Driving Cars & Chris Burden’s Metropolis II-A Glimpse into the Not-So-Distant Future

Metropolis II. Image Credit:, The Gagosian Gallery, and E. Koyama

I recently met a Clean Technology consultant who is not only a strong proponent of Electric Vehicles, but has also posited that Self Driving Cars will be a reality within in 5 years.  Five years?  I must say, the idea of getting into a car, entering my destination into a GPS, and then relinquishing the wheel to K.I.T a la Michael Knight is an appealing one, but my first thought was, “Never gonna happen. Especially in L.A.”.  My theory on driving in L.A. is that one must assume the driver next to you is drunk, high, talking on a cell phone or putting on make up.  Sometimes you get the overachieving multi-tasker who manages all of the above.  While reading a paper…

Shortly after my meeting this consultant, I went to LACMA to see Metropolis II (more like I was simply hypnotized by it).  It is an ambitious, sprawling commentary on L.A.’s transportation culture and offers a frightening glimpse into the what’s to come.

It’s Hot Wheels on PEDs.

Watching the cars amble up the ramp then quickly rocket through a complex labrynth of urban sprawl (including a bisected disco ball or 2), I caught myself daydreaming of a day when my morning commute would look like this (without the gridlock).

According to L.A. Weekly, during the opening of Metropolis II Chris Burden predicted  “The future of automobile transportation is that there won’t be drivers anymore”;  apparently the crowd wasn’t having it, but not so fast nay sayers.  Bill Howard of Extreme Tech, noted that the Google Car recently made an important safety milestone, and Ford is working on the technology that will serve as the foundation for autonomous vehicles (be sure to watch the Google vid).  Looks like 5 years may not be so far fetched after all.

The biggest hurdle to Self-Driving cars will not necessarily be the technology behind them, but rather our inability to concede the possibility that the car will be a better driver than ourselves.  Until this becomes our reality, I’ll just continue to watch my Knight Rider re-runs…


Metropolis II from CultureShockArt on Vimeo.

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