Teaching Kids About Self-Driving Vehicles

AAA and its partners are ready to teach kids about driverless vehicles.

A Waymo driverless vehicle stops at an intersection with a school bus.
We hear a lot about self-driving cars, but autonomous buses and trucks may become common before cars do.
Courtesy Waymo

It's a classic bit of advice for kids crossing the street: Make eye contact with drivers, to be sure they see you before you cross. But what do you do when the car itself—and not a human inside—is doing the driving?

That's one of many puzzling questions raised by the advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are slowly moving from labs and test tracks to public streets. And it's one that AAA is helping to answer.

For nearly 100 years, the AAA School Safety Patrol has taught kids how to be smart about traveling to and from school. This fall, AAA is joining in efforts to teach them how to make that journey safely in a world that includes self-driving vehicles.

AAA is partnering with Google offshoot Waymo, the National Safety Council, and other organizations in Let's Talk Self-Driving, a campaign to teach the public about AVs. The goal is to increase awareness of how these vehicles work and what they can and can't do.

As part of that initiative, AAA is adding a new activity to its School Safety Lesson Plan to teach children in grades four through six about self-driving vehicles, how they differ from the human-driven kind, and how to stay safe around them.

AAA is also collaborating with Let's Talk Self-Driving on a video featuring AAA-trained School Safety Patrollers (students who help peers navigate the streets near schools) talking about AVs.

We're still years away from the time when self-driving cars, trucks, and buses will dominate our roadways. But for the kids who are in school today, such vehicles will eventually be more ho-hum than gee-whiz. Which makes this an excellent time to start teaching children how to stay safe on the street—even when there's no human driver to look in the eye.