Bob Lutz, former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors, published an opinion article that appeared in AutoNews November 5, 2017.
Included in Part 1 of a five-part series in AutoNews titled “Redesigning the Industry,” Bob outlines his point-of-view on the future of a business in the throes of change into AI (artificial intelligence) and the coming age of autonomous vehicles - everyday driving of cars isn't a part of the landscape.
In the article, Bob Lutz postulates a future of transportation where self-determination and the concept of personal freedom in point-to-point travel becomes greatly devalued ... if non-existant.
This excerpted and edited from Automotive News -
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fleets
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.
These modules won't be branded Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota. They'll be branded Uber or Lyft or who-ever else is competing in the market.
The manufacturers of the modules will be much like Nokia — basically building handsets.
The end of performance
These transportation companies will be able to order modules of various sizes — short ones, medium ones, long ones, even pickup modules. But the performance will be the same for all because nobody will be passing anybody else on the highway. That is the death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. That kind of performance is not going to count anymore.
There will be no limit to what you can cram into these things because drinking while driving or texting while driving will no longer be an issue.
The importance of styling will be minimized because the modules in the high-speed trains will have to be blunt at both ends.
The future of dealers?
Unfortunately, I think this is the demise of automotive retailing as we know it.
Think about it: A horse dealer had a stable of horses of all ages, and you would come in and get the horse that suited you. You'd trade in your old horse and take your new horse home.
Automotive sport — using the cars for fun — will survive, just not on public highways. It will survive in country clubs.
It will be the well-to-do, to the amazement of all their friends, who still know how to drive and who will teach their kids how to drive. It is going to be an elitist thing, though there might be public tracks, like public golf courses, where you sign up for a certain car and you go over and have fun for a few hours.
And like racehorse breeders, there will be manufacturers of race cars and sports cars and off-road vehicles. But it will be a cottage industry.
People will be unable to drive the car to the dealership, so dealers will probably all be on these motorsports and off-road dude ranches.
In the early days, those tracks may be relatively numerous, but they will decline over time.
Dealerships are ultimately doomed. And I think Automotive News is doomed. Car and Driver is done; Road & Track is done. They are all facing a finite future. They'll be replaced by a magazine called Battery and Module read by the big fleets.
The era of the human-driven automobile, its repair facilities, its dealerships, the media surrounding it — all will be gone in 20 years.
The companies that can move downstream and get into value creation will do OK. But unless they develop superior technical capability, the manufacturers of the modules, the handset providers, if you will, will have their specifications set by the big transportation companies.
Automakers, if they are smart, may be able to adapt. General Motors sees the handwriting on the wall. It has created Maven and has bought into Cruise Automation and Lyft.
This transition will be largely complete in 20 years.
I won't be around to say, "I told you so," though if I do make it to 105, I could no longer drive anyway because driving will be banned. So my timing once again is impeccable.
If one doubts this major social transition would be impossible to have happen in this short a period in America where there exists a Constitution that was written to protect individual freedom of all peoples in a society - consider this:
So say Ta-Tah! to the total personal freedom paradigm or template of "Where do I want to go today?" - and as you set out the door, you change your mind ... and as you travel in the module (you may or may not own), you realize that up at the next corner when something catches your eye, you can not just pull over and discover what is there because it was never placed in the co-ordinates!
|On an interesting (and almost laughable) note ... Las Vegas' Autonomous Bus crashed|
Again, since one does not own fuel, car, and the general aspect of community roads, the concept of personal freedom of point-to-point travel in the pursuit of happiness becomes greatly devalued ... if non-existent.
TAGS: Bob Lutz, AutoNews, autonomous cars, autonomous driving, personal freedom, Big Fleets, end of performance, public tracks, doomed, The EDJE