We'll never make driverless cars, says Jaguar Land Rover exec

Technically Incorrect: Wolfgang Epple, head of R&D for Jaguar Land Rover, says the company doesn't consider people as cargo. How oddly human.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

You'd really want this lovely thing to be self-driving? CNET

When we hunker in our bunkers as our robot overlords dictate our thoughts and ferry us to where they want us to go, we'll have a secret vehicle stashed away.

It'll be an old Jaguar, buried underground and waiting to be driven. By you, that is.

I feel sure of this scenario, as I've just heard word that Jaguar Land Rover will never, ever make self-driving cars.

Automotive News reports that the company's head of R&D, Wolfgang Epple, uttered these words at a press event: "We don't consider customers cargo. We don't want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B."

You might muse, amid your emotive human sniffling, that Elon Musk has already declared that human driving will be banned in as little as 20 years' time.

Epple, however, said: "I don't believe it will be forbidden. The reason is that lawmakers are human beings."

He's clearly never met any Google employees, some of whom, one fancies, might like to become very unconventional lawmakers.

The algorithm says: Vote People's Robot Party.

Still, the Jag meister insisted: "People want to use the emotional side of the brain, and autonomous driving does not generate that experience." Indeed, not. It generates the experience of the 2:45 p.m. slow train from Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Va.

But, hey, at least you'll be able to text safely.

It's not that Epple wouldn't like to have some autonomous features on Jags and Land Rovers. But in the end, he wants the human in control.

A Jaguar spokesman clarified Epple's statements. He told me: "Dr Epple didn't say we would never make a self-driving car. He said we weren't interested in the driver-less car. We are working on a range of semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous technologies."

Grumblers would suggest that Jaguar Land Rover hasn't been too efficient in producing any cars that are enormously successful of late.

I wonder, though, whether Epple's stance might be the beginning of an interesting form of marketing.

Where once car manufacturers told people that theirs was the "driver's car," or even "The Ultimate Driving Machine," now Jaguar could present its wares as being designed for humans to still enjoy, as opposed to merely being chauffeured (slowly) in.

For a time, at least, operating machinery can remain a virtue, until the machines operate us.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. PT on July 1 with clarification on Epple's statement.