Autonomy, a new documentary on self-driving cars directed by Alex Horwitz and produced by Car and Driver magazine, gets its most grievous sin out of the way in the first 15 minutes. Executive producer and New Yorker writer and author Malcolm Gladwell discusses his vintage BMW, while a rotating cast of other talking heads wax poetic about the rise and fall of American car culture. As someone who doesn’t own a car, or the book-deal advance to buy a vintage one, I had trouble relating.
Thankfully, the movie’s nostalgic phase passes quickly. Even better, they are actually making a point. Autonomy, which had its world premiere here at SXSW in Austin this past week, is a comprehensive, thorough examination of the state of autonomous vehicles, and a vital bit of education for people who haven’t paid close attention to the technology’s slow, steady arrival.