Software Developer Uses AI to Imagine a World Without Cars

Gif: YouTube

It’s next to impossible to get away from cars. With an estimated 1.2 billion of them on the roads, it’s hard to picture a world where cars aren’t lining the streets, congested on highways, or tucked away in garages. Software developer Chris Harris (no, not that Chris Harris) wondered something that is practically impossible to imagine in the 21st century: what would the world look like without cars?


Harris released a short clip of a preliminary cellphone-based AI software he’s been developing. Point the camera at a car, and it replaces the vehicle with images of the outdoors. You can read all about the AI tech he uses on Harris’ blog.

While the technology is still pretty raw, it’s strange to see vehicles start to glitch out and then disappear from view. From The Verge:

“I had this idea for a while,” Harris said. He said he was becoming increasingly distraught by the amount of trucks and cars on the road, so he tried to imagine them away — roads becoming expanses of grass or flowing rivers, passing cars becoming birds, or crumbling pavements becoming mountain trails. “It kinda worked if I concentrated hard enough,” Harris said.

But it wasn’t enough to just imagine, so he decided to leverage his coding skills to build a standalone augmented reality app that alters the cityscape to be more environmentally friendly, while still allowing for safe navigation. That meant replacing cars with something less “obnoxious,” like a flowing river or a flock of birds.

Harris moved from his native England to Gibraltar in hopes of being able to find some peace from the fast-paced, vehicle-heavy life we’ve grown used to. Unfortunately, the noise and pollution associated with a car-based life was inescapable even there.

There’s the possibility that Harris’ software will be improved over time, so we can have more of a live look at the disappearance of the cars around us. Harris believes the real challenge here is to change to real world along with the software—to make the real world more hospitable and a bit more natural than it currently is.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.