Why So Much Ta-Da, To-Do About Driverless Cars?

Martin Romjue
Posted on September 28, 2016

The Volvo S60 Drive Me autonomous test vehicle is considered Level 3 autonomous driving.(Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons)
The Volvo S60 Drive Me autonomous test vehicle is considered Level 3 autonomous driving.(Photo from Wikipedia Creative Commons)
In the upcoming October issue, you’ll see my three-page article on how driverless cars may affect the limousine industry. I use “may” as an all-purpose qualifier.

What’s happening is the driverless technology has advanced further than predicted, with self-driving vehicles forecast to hit streets a few years sooner than anticipated. But adoption of it overall may take longer than projected, and the level of autonomy remains uncertain. The article discusses how limo operators should adjust to this reality--should it fully come about.

To assess all the media coverage, it helps to put things into an overall perspective. Right now, driverless technology news is driven by the golly-gee-whiz novelty approach of reporting without enough strong, skeptical questions.

The following articles prove the point:

• One report already predicts the loss of five million jobs and suggests the complete Level 5 (no human control) driverless cars are so inevitable it’s already time to start planning on how to tax, tax, tax all of us per-mile ridden. Talk about a premature, ridiculous 20th Century approach to an as-yet indeterminate 21st Century future. ARTICLE HERE

• An op-ed piece by none other than the president of Audi of America, a pioneer in driverless car testing, warns of the growing hype: “Recklessly introducing the future risks losing the most critical component of the equation: the consumer. Hype will only set false expectations with an undecided public.” ARTICLE HERE.

• A third article out this week surveys the consumer, not the tech-experts, about driverless technology: An overwhelming majority, 80%, said humans should always have the option to drive themselves, while 64% expressed a need to be in control of their own vehicle. ARTICLE HERE

No matter how much driverless technology progresses, one rule remains: Adoption won’t be up to the tech experts. They may know how it works and offer all the enthusiasm, but the consumer will prevail. They either have to want it, or the techies and OEMs will have to find a way to make it an irresistable free choice.

As my October story hints, even in a best case speedy scenario, chauffeured transportation operators still have long-term opportunities:

  • Suburban, exurban, and rural areas would need many more years to adapt to driverless networks, which now seem most suited to urban cores and interstate corridors, and could be limited to those areas for decades to come. Operators based in suburban, exurban and rural areas would continue to find business.
  • Even if we all head to a driverless world, the transitional era could involve even MORE chauffeured opportunities. For those vast regions that would not be among the first to join driverless infrastructure, it could for many years be cheaper and more desirable to be driven by a human on-demand than to own and drive a car.
  • Private buses of all sizes, even if autonomous, would still need onboard conductors. Just as you’ll never have a human-less, auto-piloted airliner, group transportation will always demand the assurance of a knowledgeable driver or attendant onboard.
  • Many elite ground transportation users would still desire onboard concierges. These would be the same high-end luxury clients now using chauffeured vehicles. They will not want to load and unload their luggage no matter how trendy the latest gadget.

With all this said, I for one am planning to buy my next car within a few years intending to drive it for years to come.

Related Topics: apps, autonomous vehicles, customer service, driverless cars, industry trends, mobile technology, OEMs, self-driving vehicles, technology

Martin Romjue Editor
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