News Motor Mouth: Even Bob Lutz sees a driverless future, and it’s depressing

17:46  05 december  2017
17:46  05 december  2017 Source:   driving.ca

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Bob Lutz sees a very near future where we won't need that steering wheel in a car anymore. If what the outspoken auto executive says is true, it will be a truly joyless future without driving. Like so many, Yours Truly included, Lutz now sees the ongoing driverless revolution obviating our right to

in the future – in the near future in fact – we will all “have five years to get our cars off the road and sell it for scrap.” That’ s because, says Lutz , as much as it sadden him to say it , “we are approaching the end of the automotive era. Motor Mouth : The Koreans are coming!

a group of people sitting around a car© Provided by Driving.ca

Bob Lutz has always been good at upsetting the apple cart. The former Ford executive, BMW vice-president, and General Motors vice-chairman is known for his straight-talking, shoot-from-the hip insights that both rock and challenge the automotive industry. Famously calling out Tesla as “not a car company, but a bunch of fanatics who think Elon Musk can do no wrong,” while simultaneously predicting “that the electrification of the automobile is inevitable,” Lutz is that most quotable of corporate executives, an insider with working knowledge of the industry and the chutzpah to state unambiguously what others believe but lack the courage to say. Gems like “forcing automakers to sell smaller cars to improve fuel economy … fighting the nation’s obesity problem by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell garments in only small sizes” have been staples of major news networks for years.

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Bob Lutz knows a thing or two about the automobile industry. He began his career in the industry the 1960 s and worked up to be General Motor ’ s vice chairman. Now, he’ s taking his expertise and adding it to the growing voices predicting a driverless future .

Bob Lutz is a former Marine who worked for Ford, General Motors , Chrysler, and BMW, usually as the resident "car guy" — a product guru who could guide the bean counters toward automotive glory and gruffly SEE ALSO: Henrik Fisker is back — and he has a new 0,000 supercar to prove it .

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But, in a long career that’s saw him revolutionize the light SUV market in developing the first Ford Explorer and become the “father’ of the electrified Chevy Volt, none of his pronouncements have had the impact as his recent dissertation in Automotive News that, sometime in the future – in the near future in fact – we will all “have five years to get our cars off the road and sell it for scrap.” That’s because, says Lutz, as much as it sadden him to say it, “we are approaching the end of the automotive era.”

And, by the end of the automotive era, Lutz is not predicting the demise of the automobile — until we humans can “beam me up, Scotty,” we’ll continue to need personal transportation — but the demise of the driver. Like so many, Yours Truly included, Lutz now sees the ongoing driverless revolution obviating our right to drive. To be sure, he acknowledges the autonomous automobile’s many advantages; reduced traffic, the cost savings of shared ownership and the shrinking of the commute as computerized cars, faultless in the their conduct and all talking to one another, “merge seamlessly into a stream of other ‘modules’ travelling at 120, 150 miles per hour.” Unfortunately, he also sees the demise of the human-driven cars, having determined that once a tipping point of 20 to 30 per cent of vehicles offering full autonomy is reached, governments “will look at the statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 per cent of the accidents.”

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But Bob Lutz , the former vice chairman of General Motors , believes the auto industry is not long for The former vice chairman of GM just predicted the car industry’ s future : it has no future . Written by. Michael J. Coren. November 07, 2017. How Silicon Valley sees Detroit. (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach).

We should add that Lutz doesn’t see much of a bright future for the industry in general. Instead they'll simply hail a ride from a driverless pod when they need to get somewhere, he said. 2019 Chevrolet Blazer: it ' s back, but it won't fight the Bronco.

Scarier still, Lutz sees this as happening very soon — 15 years, “20 at the latest” says the former marine pilot. He also sees this shift to pilotless leading to the end of the auto industry as we know it. Since cars will all now be fully interchangeable modules, there will be no more brands. Dealers will also go the way of the dodo bird, since four-wheeled vehicles are no longer privately owned. The concept of performance will die simply because, Lutz notes, “nobody will be passing anybody.” Instead, cars will come in sizes — large, medium and small — and be distinguished only by the relative luxury of their interiors, i.e. higher cost “rentals” with refrigerators and computer terminals.

The Utopian view of the autonomous revolution, of course, is all sweetness and light — time saved, traffic reduced and accidents avoided. Crowded parking lots will be a thing of the past, urban smog vastly reduced and, if the New York Times is to be believed, we’ll all be having sex — lots of it kinky, says author Molly Young — in our “self-driving bedrooms.”

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"Let's face it: It ' s the only way to go," said Bob Lutz , the former vice chairman of product development for General Motors . On Tuesday, Alphabet self-driving car company Waymo said it would start a ride-hailing service with driverless cars.

Now, if Lutz proves correct, even bigger changes are approaching not only for the general public but also for traditional automakers. Lutz sees a future of autonomous modules that don’t offer the option of human control.

But with those predictions of an idyllic commuting future comes a dystopian flip side. What if, instead of that relaxing ride into work reading, listening to music or, again, according to the Times, discovering new car-focused post-coital rituals, we come under increasing pressure from employers — as Rahawa Haile, also writing for Times, suggests — to spend all that new “free” time working harder and longer. We may even, buckling under the pressure for ever-increasing in-car productivity gains, come to long for the relative relaxation of the traffic jam.

And the demise of the driver’s license is going to have lots of other unintended casualties. Most pointedly, at least for Yours Truly, it will certainly mean the death of motorcycles. Certainly, if driving your own car is forbidden, riding your own motorcycle will have to be banned. After all, why would government activists, so concerned for the public’s safety, allow an exemption for two-wheelers, which are already statistically six times as dangerous as cars? And, while the robot-driven automobile at least provides practical transportation, riding on the back of a motorcycle — exposed to the elements — without the thrill of man-conquering-machine oneness is about as enjoyable as a day at the beach in the middle of a thunderstorm.

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Tesla is a "losing enterprise" that won't last, Bob Lutz , former vice chairman of General Motors , told CNBC on Friday. In fact, he thinks GM might even have an advantage because its batteries are arguably more capable and lower cost.

Bob Lutz knows a thing or two about the automobile industry. He began his career in the industry the 1960 s and worked up to be General Motor ’ s vice chairman. Now, he’ s taking his expertise and adding it to the growing voices predicting a driverless future .

Of course, the upside of all this restriction will be greater safety. That much is unarguable. The bigger question then — indeed, it may be well beyond the purview of a typical automotive column — is do we really want safety be the over-riding concern in our every decision? Are we really willing to surrender yet another freedom at the altar of greater safety? And, if we are, where will we stop? Are sports such as football — with reports that a majority of ex-NFLers suffer some form of CTE — and boxing next?

Indeed, the biggest question regarding the autonomization of the automobile isn’t whether it’s technically feasible, but do we really want to surrender yet another seemingly integral part of our lives to roboticized machines? No one can question that minimizing risk in the pursuit of freedom must, and always should, be of paramount concern. But eliminating hard-won freedoms in the pursuit of safety sounds positively Orwellian to me.

The worst thing about all of this, says Lutz, is that “everybody sees this coming, but no one wants to talk about it.” Perhaps, it’s time we start.

Author’s note: While so many of my columns fall into the “might be” variety — positing what could happen, what may be true in the future and the pitfalls that some of our technology shifts might engender should we not judiciously plan our road forward — I am completely convinced that the demise of driving falls into the “will be” category, as inevitable as the proverbial death and taxes. Putting my money where my mouth is, I am rebuilding my antique motorcycle one last time and plan, in the next 15 years, to ride it into the ground. Label me pessimistic all you like, but it looks more like realism to me. For fellow motorheads, I suggest you “drive ‘em while you got ‘em” because the right to drive — or ride — might soon be taken away.

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