Category Archives: GM

Why Autonomous Cars Are A Pipe Dream

Hey Cool Car Fans,

Each month there are new articles talking about the benefits of the autonomous car and how Silicon Valley is going to change the automotive industry with cars that drive themselves. They are definitely working on these vehicles and want the world to buy into their fascination of putting everyone into a self-driving taxi cab.   Like this article over at TechCrunch entitled: “Business models will drive the future of autonomous vehicles”.

This is actually a great article on the topic of autonomous vehicles and the challenges facing this new technology.  Including such issues about whether people will buy an autonomous vehicle or just pay for a ride share or who will control the software or if cities will tax them or how they will navigate and not run into a trolley to name a few.

Manufacturers and software giants are all jumping on this bandwagon because they see dollar signs and an amazing future of self-driving vehicles.   Which means it’s going to happen eventually, but does it mean that it’s actually a good idea or that it will be successful?  One article I read was so ridiculous that it said that the car of today would be like the horse of the past.

I for one am not buying into the Wall Street carnival barkers trying to raise the stock prices on these companies investing in this new technology.  It reminds me of when we had video cassette recorders that were going to replace Hollywood.  Remember that amazing technology with the dominating company known as Blockbuster?  You would go and rent a movie and then have to return it or get hit with a huge late fee.  That evolved into BETA that was going to replace VHS and before you knew it we had DVD’s and today we stream Netflix and HBO.  They were all going to replace the movie theater, but the last time I checked Hollywood is still earning billions and people are still going to the movies.  The hype didn’t deliver and most of the previous technology has disappeared because the demand was replaced with something easier and better.

WHY IS THE COOL CAR GUY SKEPTICAL

It’s really simple.  What’s the benefit of “riding” in an autonomous car?  People buy things based on benefits.  Is the benefit that you can get car sick looking at your phone while the vehicle drives you around?  Do your kids like to ride in the backseat of your vehicle today?  Does that car above look like something you want to hop in and have Google drive you around?

An autonomous vehicle simply means that a computer or some programmer in India is driving your vehicle instead of you and you’re just a passenger.  How is this any different than taking a taxi cab today with a real person driving you around, while you get to sit in the front or the back seat?  Seriously.  What’s the additional benefit?  The word autonomous?  Oooh.  It sounds so sexy!  I’m not making this up.  They are all scrambling to create an overpriced and glorified taxi cab.  Michigan is building an $80 million autonomous car testing site according to AutoWeek.  What?  Why?  Do they have an $80 million testing site to train taxi cab drivers?  If someone proposed that the first reaction would be “Are you crazy?”.  Well, that’s what you’re doing morons!

An autonomous car will pick you up and take you where you want to go, like Lyft or Uber, but instead of Lyft or Uber having a driver the vehicle drives itself.  Amazing!  Is it going to get you to your destination faster than an Uber or Lyft driver today?  Will traffic tickets no longer be given since all vehicles go the same speed or are they going to be sent to Google or Uber to pay the fine?  What about if it gets in an accident?  Who’s liable at that point for the system failure?  The automobile manufacturer?  The software company?  The “rider”?  Do you have to carry insurance or will it be like when you rent a vehicle from a rental car company?   Will all of these ancillary industries go away, so you no longer can rent a car?  Is the car gong to smell better?  Is it going to cost you less money?  Again, what are the actual benefits?  Is anyone asking this most basic of selling questions?  “I want an autonomous car, so that I can text and drive?”  That seems like the only benefit at this point to me.

And there are actually people who are betting on this and trying to tell investors and the rest of us that in the future autonomous cars will replace all of our current vehicles. Really?  If that is true, couldn’t you just sell your car tomorrow and just take Lyft or Uber wherever you want to go?  Why wait for the autonomous car revolution when you can get a ride from Lyft tomorrow?  I use those services quite often going back and forth to picking up a vehicle, but they haven’t replaced my vehicle.  In some cities people do not own a vehicle and they only take a taxi cab.  I had friends in Chicago years ago who lived downtown and they didn’t own a car.  They took a taxi or a limo everywhere they wanted to go.  That’s the market for autonomous cars.

WHERE ARE HUMMER, SUZUKI, PONTIAC, OLDSMOBILE, SATURN, ETC.

Finally, here is what Google, Uber, Lyft, Tesla and even Ford and the other car manufacturers are apparently forgetting and missing when it comes to selling vehicles.  Hummer was a successful brand for a while, so were Saturn, Suzuki, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.  Don’t forget that Chevrolet and GM needed to be bailed out for their bad decisions in the past and even filed bankruptcy.  Many of these car companies trade hands like a deck of playing cards because the market is saturated from a manufacturing standpoint and the marketplace is extremely fickle.

The automobile industry is crazy at times.  How many vehicles are hot for a period of time and then they stop selling?  And everyone is scrambling to create a self driving car without actually knowing if the market even wants it.

I have yet to have one person tell me that they cannot wait for an autonomous car.  I have had people tell me they are still waiting for a landspeeder!  And you will notice that Luke Skywalker was actually driving the landspeeder in Star Wars and it wasn’t driving itself.
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Auto Consultant – John Boyd: The Cool Car Guy
John is an auto consultant who owns CoolCarGuy.com that is a licensed car dealership in Lone Tree, CO.  He can help you save time and money on any make or model, new or used, lease or purchase – nationwide! Call or email John about your next vehicle! jboyd@coolcarguy.com or Twitter @coolcarguy