Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye
'Everyone will have 5 years to get their car off the road or sell it for scrap'
Bob Lutz is a former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors. He also held senior executive positions with Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Opel.
This article will be included in “Redesigning the Industry,” a five-part Automotive News series exploring the future of a business in the throes of change. Part I begins in our Nov. 6 issue with a focus on “Predictions & Possibilities.”
It saddens me to say it, but we are approaching the end of the automotive era.
The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.
Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile because travel will be in standardized modules.
The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you'll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway.
On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn't matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation.
Then, as you approach your exit, your module will enter deceleration lanes, exit and go to your final destination. You will be billed for the transportation. You will enter your credit card number or your thumbprint or whatever it will be then. The module will take off and go to its collection point, ready for the next person to call.
Most of these standardized modules will be purchased and owned by the Ubers and Lyfts and God knows what other companies that will enter the transportation business in the future.
A minority of individuals may elect to have personalized modules sitting at home so they can leave their vacation stuff and the kids' soccer gear in them. They'll still want that convenience.HT: the Tesla Motors Club blog.
The vehicles, however, will no longer be driven by humans because in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.
The tipping point will come when 20 to 30 percent of vehicles are fully autonomous. Countries will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents.
Of course, there will be a transition period. Everyone will have five years to get their car off the road or sell it for scrap or trade it on a module.
The big fleetsCNBC recently asked me to comment on a study showing that people don't want to buy an autonomous car because they would be scared of it. They don't trust traditional automakers, so the only autonomous car they'd buy would have to come from Apple or Google. Only then would they trust it.
My reply was that we don't need public acceptance of autonomous vehicles at first. All we need is acceptance by the big fleets: Uber, Lyft, FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, utility companies, delivery services. Amazon will probably buy a slew of them. These fleet owners will account for several million vehicles a year. Every few months they will order 100,000 low-end modules, 100,000 medium and 100,000 high-end. The low-cost provider that delivers the specification will get the business....MUCH MORE
The Other Approach to Autonomous Vehicles: Tampa's Connected Vehicle Tech Demonstration Project