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How Hollywood imagines the next phase of self-driving cars

Whenever I tell my co-host Bryan Salesky that we should pivot to science fiction film reviews, he says he’s interested in science fact, not fiction. He likes true stories, especially about people overcoming incredible odds. So when I heard that Peter Berg, director of “Friday Night Lights,” “Lone Survivor” and “Patriot’s Day,” had requested a ride in one of Argo’s autonomous test vehicles, I knew Bryan would say yes.

On this very special episode of No Parking, Peter Berg joins Bryan and me to discuss courage, scooter safety, how to raise hundreds of millions for a crazy idea, the Hollywood Blacklist, his boxing gym in West Los Angeles, naval warfare films, the greatest World War II script never made, *and* his first experience in an autonomous vehicle.

“It was quietly thrilling,” said Berg of the cars. “It was a low key thrill. Even though (Bryan) described it as ‘When the vehicle works it’s an extremely boring, underwhelming experience,’ I found it to be pulse-pounding. I felt like I was in an action movie. Every second I was like a little kid asking a billion questions, and fundamentally blown away by how well that car worked. I just thought it was awesome. Really cool.”

Berg said he thinks human driving sets a pretty low bar for autonomous vehicles to surpass, especially our collective proclivity for distracted driving.

“It’s almost a requirement that you’re on your phone,” Berg said of a recent drive in Atlanta. “Texting while driving, cars are weaving all over the freeways, everyone’s on their phones. I certainly think it makes an argument (for autonomous vehicles).”

As a director and screenwriter of big-budget action films, it’s often Berg’s responsibility to find a through-line between fiction and fact—to show the drama and tension of a life-changing choice.

He calls them “bridge moments.”

“We all have these moments where we have a real opportunity,” he said. “We’re moving through a jungle and we come to a canyon. Most people stop, but some people, they can see a bridge. And if you can see that bridge and take it, you can get up and you can go to a whole new level. Very people can see that.”
Director Peter Berg makes movies about real people laying it on the line for something bigger. The 2016 film “Deepwater Horizon” depicts the real-life story of electronics technician Mike Williams and offshore installation manager Jimmy Harrell as they race to prevent one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
(David Lee/Lionsgate)

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