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Cooley On Cars
Top 5: Reasons automakers fear the autonomous futureEvery major carmaker is developing autonomous cars -- and is afraid they might do too well.
Tommy V. sends in an email saying, aren't carmakers really digging their own graves with this rush to self driving cars? Won't carmakers like Ford and Mercedes sell fewer cars as they create their own Uber-like services? And a BMW 3-Series might be faster than a Ford Fusion, but with driving controlled by computers And environmental conditions, there's not much need for a faster self-driving car. Won't the only differences be the size of the car and the luxury level of the interior? Tommy, you've hit on some of the best points of what's keeping auto makers awake at night. I think it's time for a top five. The top five reasons that car makers Probably dread autonomy at the same time they're developing it. [SOUND] Number 5 is a big shift in where liability sits. It may end up being on the carmaker's lap. If they build a car that's driving itself often crashes. What do I have to do with it? I was just sitting there. Suddenly, they're in the mix of the whole liability and lawsuit game in a very different way. And by the way, this could also be number one on a list of nightmare scenarios for auto insurers. This really could upend their business. But I rank it all fairly low, because this is a long-term trend well down the road. Number four is the first Big crash or two. Now, let's face it, this hour five people are gonna die in car accidents in the US and scarcely get a local headline, but you better be sure the first few fatalities in self driving cars will get an enormous set of National headlines and hand wringing, because we don't cut machines the kind of slack that we cut our sloppy human selves. And those headlines are gonna be brutal in the early years of self-driving cars that will make some mistakes. Number three is a seismic shift in what auto brands stand for. Performance brands today versus more pedestrian brands. Who knows who's actually gonna look more valuable in the era of autonomy as cars kinda become more of an appliance. Now I happen to believe that things like 0 to 60 and kinetic design and bread on the Nerdberg ring are going to seem a little silly down the road when your car is driving itself as safely and efficiently as possible per its software. That said, for the first 20 years or so, you'll still be able to put the car in manual mode and drive it yourself. So this isn't gonna happen overnight, but this is the kind of brand musical chairs that no car maker wants to come up chairless on when the music stops. [MUSIC] Number 2, and I hear from a lot of you about this one, is the potential For a big fade in our love of driving. Now this is an interesting one because I can't tell you, how many folks I've worked with or advised on factually identifying the perfect car for them. Only to have them at the last minute go into the showroom And buy something else because they just liked it more. That's a big part about how cars are sold these days. But are you going to have that kind of emotional swing and attachment, that interest in spending a little more because that car is cool, when it's more of a self-driving appliance? Before we get to number one, how about a reality check? Is this even possible? Just about every car maker in the world right now has put themselves on the hook to deliver a highly self-driving car by 2020 or 2021. That's like the day after tomorrow in automotive terms. They better put on another pot of coffee, cuz they are in the middle of the biggest engineering moonshot in automotive history. The number one aspect of autonomy that I think's keeping car makers awake is the very real prospect of simply selling fewer cars. Let's face it, even the ultimate driving machine is really the ultimate parking machine. The average car spends 4 or 5% of its life on Earth actually moving. The rest of the time It's parked doing nothing, this is insane. Autonomy shows real promise to have cars doing more work each day. They can do work on their own perhaps, they can drive people around who otherwise couldn't drive. They can take part in interesting ride share scenarios, just ask Uber. That leads to an almost inescapable conclusion. The car makers are selling fewer cars in the future, and that's gonna be a seismic shift.