Nonfiction Review: Ghost Road

July 16, 2020 Uncategorized 0 ★★★★

Nonfiction Review: Ghost RoadTitle: Ghost Road: Beyond the Driverless Car
Author: Anthony M. Townsend
Source: from publisher for review

Summary: A fascinating, balanced look at the possible futures of autonomous vehicles.

Although I thought Anthony Townsend’s first book, Smart Cities, relied a bit too heavily on anecdote, it presented enough interesting ideas that I was quite excited for his new book.┬áThe author is the founder of a ‘strategic foresight and urban planning studio’ and those specialties both show in the strengths of this book. He really narrows in on this one specific technology – autonomous vehicles (AVs). He is incredibly creative in the ways he imagines AVs might changes our lives. These changes will probably be largely in urban locations, especially at first, and the author paints a particularly vivid picture of the future of cities as AVs become more ubiquitous. I also appreciate his ability to recognize both the positive and negative changes AVs might make to our lives.

This book definitely suffers less than his previous book from being composed mostly of anecdotes. The first two of three sections have clear thematic connections, as do each of the individual chapters. The third section was a little more disjointed, but I had to stop and think about structure to notice it. Individual topics flow seamlessly into one another and are fascinating enough to distract from the small organizational issues in the concluding section.

Every chapter began with a story. I found this engaging, but I wish I couldn’t see the author pulling the strings so much. I knew he was trying to draw me in by beginning this way and I think the best books do this without also drawing your attention to what they’re doing. The fact that whole book doesn’t read as a narrative is, I think, what prevented me from falling completely in love with it. This was an incredibly fascinating, creative, balanced look at the many possible futures of AVs. If you have someone you’d enjoy discussing AVs with, I’d highly recommend this book as a great conversation starter. It’s just a little too purely informational, without enough narrative, to be one of my absolute favorites.

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