Self-driving cars really are a natural fit for rural America

A self-propelled car of the General Motors company Cruise is on a test drive May 2, 2019, in downtown San Francisco. Andrej Sokolow/DPA/Zuma Press/Tribune News Service

NEW YORK — On a recent Friday evening, a white Toyota Sienna minivan with a cylindrical sensor mounted on its roof slowed to a stop in front of the only hospital in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, population 11,000.

The door opened, and I took a seat behind the driver: a computer rack mounted in place of the passenger seat. Next to it was a friendly young operator who sits behind the steering wheel and ensures that this self-driving rideshare doesn’t suddenly skid into a snowbank or a pedestrian. Then we were on the way, passengers in the first autonomous vehicle pilot to run in a cold and icy rural environment.

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