Do Carmakers REALLY Want Autonomous Vehicles?
Autonomous (or self-driving) vehicles are here. Waymo (which assumed Google’s automated driver study) has been hard at work for eight years on this. Both Daimler (2020) and Ford (2021) have promised to have automated vehicles within 5 years. Chrysler is working directly with Waymo on this technology. But do carmakers want their clients behind an unsteerable wheel?
Car manufacturers want buyers to be emotional about their vehicle of choice. They also want drivers to be emotionally engaged in vehicle ownership. Jeep, for example, touts the outdoor and adventuresome lifestyle with their brand. However, it would be difficult to be autonomous on a 4×4 trail. If carmakers wanted ‘drone drivers’ they would offer fewer models and options. Contrary to this we are seeing an increase in overall option/packages for vehicles especially SUVs. Sedans, which some see as bland, are being rapidly outsold by SUVs and crossover models.
-Driver Assisted Autonomous Safety-
Where the auto manufacturers are seeing a bridge between what we drive now and autonomous vehicles is in DAFs (Driver Assist Features). These can be parking assist systems, backup cameras, and lane change correction software. If you have never driven a vehicle with lane-change correction it will shock you how efficiently it works. Furthermore, other driver-assist systems like lane change monitoring, self-parking, and adaptive cruise control are popular options these days. Federal law has made back up cameras now standard equipment in all 2018 models as well. Today’s cars may not be autonomous. Yet they have a great deal of guidance from technology.
Many auto manufacturers are investing in automated vehicles for fleet and company use. Both Uber and Lyft are incorporating this technology into their businesses. Some reports show that vehicle ownership is waning with the youngest generation of drivers. However, when used in public transportation, automated vehicles are of interest to modern younger drivers.
Autonomous vehicles are here and are anticipated. How they fit in though, is another discussion for another time.