Last week, in response to the tragic crash of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, President Trump let loose his opinion that planes have become “too complicated.” This week, we learn that our president also hates and distrusts self-driving cars. According to Axios, Trump believes autonomous vehicles are “crazy” and dangerous.
In conversations on Air Force One and in the White House, Trump has acted out scenes of self-driving cars veering out of control and crashing into walls. He’s said he doesn’t think autonomous vehicles make sense, according to four sources who’ve heard him discuss the subject.
Trump’s self-driving car schtick does sound memorable.
“You know when he’s telling a story, and he does the hand motions,” a source who has been there for Trump’s dramatic reenactments of hypothetical crashes told Axios. “He says, ‘Can you imagine, you’re sitting in the back seat and all of a sudden this car is zig-zagging around the corner and you can’t stop the f—-ing thing?’”
“He’s definitely an automated car skeptic,” the source continued.
Another source told Axios that Trump has previously said the cars “will never work.”
Of course, self-driving cars, including the semi-autonomous vehicles currently sold by Tesla, have features allowing a human driver to override the programming.
But Trump’s fear of autonomous vehicles is strong. In 2017, at Bedminster golf club, Trump apparently discussed his fears with a club member who was excited about his recent Tesla purchase.
“And [Trump] was like, ‘Yeah that’s cool but I would never get in a self-driving car... I don’t trust some computer to drive me around,’” the anonymous club member told Axios.
Trump isn’t wrong that autonomous vehicles can be dangerous, just like regular cars. Last year, a self-driving car being tested by Uber hit and killed a pedestrian, leading the state of Arizona to ban self-driving vehicles.
And yet, the Trump administration is actively pushing for the advancement of autonomous driving technology. Just last week at SXSW, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced a new regulatory body to speed up the the implementation of new, groundbreaking technologies like hyperloops and autonomous vehicles.
Trump could put an end to this progress, if he cared. One source told Axios it wouldn’t take much to push Trump into ending his administration’s push for autonomous vehicles.
“Trump already calls self-driving cars out-of-control death traps, so any news fueling that fear could jolt him into action,” Axios writes.