By on November 5, 2017

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Although semi-retired from the automotive industry, Bob Lutz still has his fingers in a lot of pies and continues to provide insight into the vehicular world as he sees it through veteran eyes. I never miss an opportunity to read what he’s got to say about the industry because he provides unusually frank insight paired with borderline ludicrous sensationalism that’s too juicy to ignore.

That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, especially since one of his more recent claims about the financial inviability of Tesla Motors has started to seem particularly astute. But a lot of his premonitions haven’t had the time necessary to come to pass, leaving us to speculate if he’s an automotive sage or just an old crank. He routinely weighs in on the industry to offer entertaining doomsday scenarios — and his newest one is the bleakest yet. 

Writing for a five-part Automotive News series, called “Redesigning the Industry,” Lutz outlined the death of the car as we know it. The timeline for that? Under twenty years. What does it look like?

“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.” Lutz wrote. “On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn’t matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation.”

Lutz, the former vice chair of General Motors, suggested the transition will be similar to how the car killed off the horse. Only, you probably won’t own the autonomous cars of tomorrow. You’ll borrow them from companies like Uber or Lyft, leaving traditional manufacturers in the dust — eliminating the need for your garage.

“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,” he continued. “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. Countries will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents.”

From there Lutz claims there will be a grace period where you can bring in your old self-driving model and trade it in for an autonomous pod. He says styling will be irrelevant, since cars will enter the highway as part of an aerodynamic convoy, and performance models won’t exist — because you won’t be the one doing the driving. For the precious few that do opt to own their own “pod,” there will be various trim levels to choose from but powertrains will be standardized.

“In each size vehicle, you will be able to order different equipment levels,” Lutz said. “There will be basic modules, and there will be luxury modules that will have a refrigerator, a TV and computer terminals with full connectivity. 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.”

It’s all coming down, according to Lutz.

“…dealerships are ultimately doomed,” he said. “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.”

Here’s the problem with some of these assumptions: Firstly, established automakers are pressing forward with autonomous technology just as hard as the tech companies. It would be silly to assume businesses like Uber would be the only game in town in just 20 years. Secondly, people will want to have the option to drive — especially in America. The United States has grappled with the the issue of gun control for decades, because it’s your right to own one. It would be unreasonable to assume there wouldn’t be a similar backlash against outlawing traditional automobiles, delaying any laws that might remove them from the streets.

There are also a myriad of problems with how a fleet of self-driving cabs would facilitate the needs of people living in rural areas. Providers would be forced to leave gobs of autonomous vehicles milling around in the middle of nowhere, waiting for some farmer to hail them for a trip to the store. And that problem would be exacerbated the second one wanted to take their six-person family out to a restaurant on a whim and had to wait for a bigger vehicle. That’s incredibly inefficient in regard to both time and energy.

Lutz’s vision would mean an end to personal car ownership, dealerships, road trips, gas stations, millions of trucking jobs, and even parking lots, all because the government didn’t trust us not to kill each other on the road. It clearly isn’t what he wants; his writing is littered with loathing for the future he has envisioned. But I also don’t believe it will play out in the manner he has posited. It’s a little too extreme and one-dimensional. That said, I can see the push being made for all of this already. I just don’t see playing out quite so extreme or swift as Lutz does — and I’m interested in what you think.

 

[Image: NHTSA]

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112 Comments on “Old Man Lutz Outlines the ‘End of the Automobile Era’...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I think Bob Lutz has his finger on the pulse of deluded auto industry executives who THINK personally owned and operated transportation is finished. The Silicon Valley types who deal in vaporware but can’t build hardware may SOUND prescient, but again, they can’t build anything.

    As for Lutz, he’ll be 86 in February, and he’s keeping up with the industry by talking to people who are going to wreck their businesses putting too much money into pie-in-the-sky pronouncements from the bright idea kids.

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    As someone who works, sells, maintains equipment and observes the real world, automation is a pipe dream due of the intellectual divide between creators and users. In short for individuals, borrowing a phrase…you can’t fix stupid. And for corporations, competition forgos a standard they can agree on. Google gave up because AI cannot account for all driving scenarios. In addition, claims of pods linking up and travel 120-150 mph giving current roadways is smoking mirrors in flying automobiles garages.

    • 0 avatar
      ttiguy

      As someone who works in “automation” (i.e. robotics) I’d say you’re waaayyyyy underestimating the potential for self driving cars. They are the future, and they are coming. Whether it’s in sub 20 years as lutz says or sub 40 years or so, its happening and there is no turning back. People can try and wish away change but its just a waste of time

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        The problem with self driving cars at first will be the varying conditions cars operate in. They will be flawless on clear dry days. In bad weather, that’s an other story.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        As someone that works in AI and Machine learning – I can say it’s going to happen and the tools we need are being developed at a rapid rate. One of my specialty areas is predicting what other objects around the vehicle or in its path are going to do. We are doing things like looking at the head angles of other drivers to see where they are looking. Wheel angles – does the driver not have a turn signal on, but his wheels are turned left, so… I have a school zone to my south the is signed “20 mph when children are present”. We’ve actually tested and can tell an adult from a child. The system can identify dogs now. Other neat things in the works are analyzing what’s in reflections of vehicles and buildings to try to see things that would be out of sight for a human.

        These cars will be far more aware of what’s going on than any human would hope to be. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we make progress every day.

        • 0 avatar
          dont.fit.in.cars

          Your efforts in machine learning are notable. I’m familiar with robotics in the packaging industry. Vision system to locate pick and place, mechanical conveying, tool building for various shape products, computing power limits number of units it can control, requiring more CPU’s…not to mention service requirements. Current overall cost including turnover is a 3-4 year ROI. Hard sell when vendors can only secure a 2 year contract with a big box store.

          Small and medium business survive by having multiple revenue streams creating diverse products. Cost associated to automate never delivers on it capability.

          When automation has difficult packing taquitos. No hope in hell it will succeed in a car.

        • 0 avatar
          road_pizza

          “We’ve actually tested and can tell an adult from a child.” Yea… right. Tell me something, would your system have identified Tamir Rice (the 12 year old shot by a Cleveland PD officer) as a child? He was 5′ 8″ and 180lbs. My father was 5’6″ and weighed maybe 145lbs at his heaviest. I’ll be I know what your system would have determined…

      • 0 avatar
        dont.fit.in.cars

        Oh I don’t underestimate AI’s potential nor big brains that make it work. In fact I praise the amount of computing power in today’s automobiles and worship at the alter of the MAF sensor. When GPS is accurate to twenty feet and can account for a kid chasing a ball into a street, and can react to a asshole abrupt lane change and schedule a fuel stop between Plam Springs and Barstow. Question is what is the cost, does it add five grand And come with a crash warranty?

      • 0 avatar
        islander800

        Well, ttiguy, like Lutz, you are underestimating the human element.

        And like with guns, humans will be loath to give up control of “driving” their vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          “you are underestimating the human element”

          Two slightly inebriated men walk out of a bar. “Look.. it’s one of those self driving cars coming!” says one. The other says, “Hold my beer” and steps in front of the oncoming car.

          “Look. I made it stop! I made it stop!”

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            Look, the podcar took a video of your act and forwarded it to the police. And no need to wait 20 years, that could be done today.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            Or:
            “Oh, no, dude, that one wasn’t a self-driving car… and it didn’t stop in time!”

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            @brandloyalty

            It’s more novel to do that with an automated car. And as @RHD jokingly commented, a human driver might not stop in time.

            The drunks could be wearing masks. And maybe not just stop the cars, but corral them using coordinated flash mobs. Just for fun.

            My point is that as smart as AI grows, humans will find a way to be more stupid.

            Teens have a graduated license and can drive only on certain roads and at certain times. We need to demand the same from automated cars, limiting them to commuter corridors until they prove themselves.

            There is a future for automated cars. Just not Lutz’s future.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Sadly, I agree…even in America where we cherish freedom of movement and personal choice. Automated driving will become the norm somewhere within my lifetime (and I’m currently 47). External styling will largely become irrelevant, but for those that do own their own pods, specialization will be on the interior. Do you want xBox or PS? The ability to sleep four or five? Office or home set-up? I mourn this time, as I really, truly enjoy driving, even over the long haul. But automated driving, whether we are asking for it or not, is coming.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Yeah it will not happen in 15-20 years and it won’t happen the way he is thinking. Uber and the like will not be manufacturing pods, Toyota, Ford and GM will still be at it even if it is not what they are building today. Most people will not give up ownership, they want their pod, the way they want it, with their stuff, when they want it. What if your kid leaves his homework in the pod?

    Plus there is no way to make a company that could meet all the demand and still be profitable. You don’t want 75% of your fleet sitting idle the majority of the time and fact is with a fleet large enough to meet commuter demand that is what would happen.

    Service facilities also are not going to go away, the pods will need new tires, suspension pieces, brakes, lights and things like switches, sensors, power windows, HVAC systems and the like will still fail/wear out and need replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      75% utilization would be a big improvement over the existing fleet. When not in use they could be recharging.

      Stored and charged in dense lots where only the ones at the end or edges need to get out. Instead of today’s sprawling lots where every car has to be able to get out.

      The space saved will be vast. As someone said, home garages will be obsolete. Parking lots everywhere will need be only a fraction of the size they are now. Make cities more compact and transit works better and you can travel shorter distances. Spend hundreds of fewer hours driving and stuck in traffic jams.

      Traffic policing and most of the car financing, sales, marketing and insurance industries go away.

      Just like when the first mobile phones came out we had no idea of the breadth of the changes that would result, we have only started to realize the changes that will result from podcars.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “As someone said, home garages will be obsolete.”

        They already are. People pay good monies to buy a house with a garage in which they can store their expensive cars, but instead leave the cars outside while they jam MORE STUFF! into those “garages”.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t drive. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to.

    Envisioning a world where few if any own a car is easy if you spend your time in the city. The further out you get, the more implausible it becomes. Forget the farmer going to the store or out to dinner with his family, how will he haul pallets of feed or fertilizer? How will he take his livestock to and from the stockyard? How will he get his tractor to another pasture he owns that is 15 miles away?

    Moving on from farming, there are plenty of people who live in rual areas, and they will not be willing to wait an hour for a mobility pod to arrive from the city, just so they can go visit a friend 7 miles away.

    Are there going to be trailer hitches on these pods? You know, so you can hook up your boat to take it to the river for an afternoon of fishing. I’d love to see an autonomous vehicle back a boat down a boat launch.

    I’m sure autonomous vehicles will benefit some people. Habitual drinkers can make it home from the bar without the risk of taking out a school bus full of orphans. The elderly and disabled will have mobility like never before, no asking a family member to drive them. Those who hate to drive to work can enjoy just being along for the ride, being on their phone or catching a few Zs before arriving at the office.

    Speaking of school busses, how will they work without an actual human on board who can see if the child is on the bus or if he’s running down the driveway because mom’s alarm didn’t go off. How about if the child to be picked up isn’t there at all? Will the bus just wait indefinitely on a kid who’s in bed with an ear infection?

    Lutz may be right on some things, but I don’t see a world-wide ban of manually driven vehicles happening in my lifetime. Certainly not in the next 20 years.

    • 0 avatar
      ttiguy

      But you won’t have to wait more than 5 minutes even if you live in the middle of nowhere. The pods will just be circling around waiting for the next fare.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t drive. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to.”

      I feel the same way, and I think that there will always be people who will drive themselves wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go.

      But Denver, CO, has a nice touch with their Light Rail Trolley system. Buy a day pass, and you can go to and from anywhere to anywhere, even the airport.

      It’s slick!

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        highdesert, that’s probably the future of densely populated areas and by the same token if you live outside the densely populated area then most likely you would take your personal conveyance to a park and ride then head in.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          raph, I agree.

          And for densely populated areas, that system is pretty slick because of the way it is laid out; close to everything of importance along the route.

          It reminded me of the European system of trams and trolleys where you never had to walk very far to get to your destination because the light rail system interfaced with the bus system. Just hop on and hop off.

          It sure beat trying to find a parking space!

          OTOH, in the Denver area, I had to drive my own conveyance to the nearest rail station on the outskirts (in my case Mineral) from where I could board this jewel of transportation and experience newly-found freedom from traffic hassles.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            The light rail system’s the way to go if you live out in the ‘burbs and work downtown.

            As much as people hate to admit it, here in Denver, rail/transit is going to be the only way this city can possibly deal with growth. We have a highway system designed when the city had maybe a million people. Denver’s population is now approaching three million. There’s not enough money in the world to build enough roads for everyone.

            I can also see autonomous “drones” working here in the more densely populated parts of the city as a supplement to transit and privately owned cars. Denver has a terrific downtown and urban core with everything you could possibly need (assuming you can afford to live there, of course) and you don’t necessarily need a car in that part of town.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You can go from anywhere to anywhere as long as the light rail actually goes there. Or you like really long walks. Nice from downtown to the airport though.

        All I want is a car that can properly drive itself on an interstate highway while I read or take a nap. Even if only in good conditions. I can do the rest. If the going gets too tough, pull over and wake me up.

      • 0 avatar
        road_pizza

        “You can go anywhere to anywhere”… as long as it’s along the route. Want to go anywhere NOT on that route? Tough sh*t.

    • 0 avatar
      DAC17

      I agree with your comments, JohnTaurus. I think the intelligentsia and others that don’t like cars are having a pipe dream with this scenario. There are too many variables outside of inner city areas. But to say “completely gone” in 20 years,,,I don’t buy it. I grew up in an era of flying car promises! I guess that didn’t run out so well.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Flying cars didn’t work out for a variety of reasons that could have easily been foreseen. There was the issue of the cost to make things sufficiently safe to be up in the air. So you don’t fall out of the sky when the engine stalls. Unlike pulling off the road when a car engine quits. Aviation is far more costly than ground transportation even without the added expense of combining the two.

        Then the matter of training everyone to mingle safely in dense numbers in 3-dimensional space.

        And the difficulty of making a device that can ride on air in relatively unlimited space but also move around on the ground in a stable and very precise manner. Not to mention the requirements of transitions between the two. There’s a good reason blenders and toasters are two different devices.

        A much less challenging combiation, cars that can travel on water, proved too much to be practical.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The farmer will get his fertilizer and from AmazonAg.com. The tractor will be autonomous – they already have them in the works.

      As far as the school bus goes, humans aren’t doing a very good job there. Besides, not many robots will be registered sex offenders etc. A computer can easily detect kids and can even tell if one is running down the driveway. The real problem is discipline on board. That could be better handled by a robot, but that’s not going to happen. At least the human can devote full-time to keeping order rather than having to focus on driving.

      Still, it makes no sense banning human-piloted vehicles from roads and isn’t going to happen. Why, because you’ll still have wildlife and weather to deal with. We have falling trees in storms where I live. Human drivers are just one danger factor of many on the road. Humans will be better drivers because there will be modes that you can set that say “let me drive cuz I want to, but if something bad is going to happen, take over”.

      Also, manual transmission sports cars without autonomous modes will still be around just like horses are still around. I still encounter equestrians on the road all the time where I live. Miatas and horses will still be on the road in the future. They aren’t going away.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      “I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t drive. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to.”

      You will reach an age when you can’t drive. At that point I’d wager you will be happy to use podcars rather than choose suicide.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I am of the mind that there will be some level of optional automation (switch it on when you’re too tired or drunk) but I don’t know if humans will be banned from driving any time soon.

      Then again, I have an obvious bias….

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @JohnT: “I’d love to see an autonomous vehicle back a boat down a boat launch.”

      Sure, it could launch your autonomous boat, which would take your autonomous fishing gear out on the water to catch some trout. Then bring it home, where your autonomous kitchen cleans and fries up the fish. Then a robot serves it up to you with an ice cold beer. Unfortunately, when you cut into the fish, you discover it was someone else’s autonomous trout drone. Ahh, the future is so wonderful.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Listening to Lutz ramble on reminds me of the story of one of the greatest engineer/manager types ever, Kelly Johnson–the man who ran Lockheed’s Skunk Works and who invented the U-2 and the A-12 Blackbird (the latter by managing the invention of new materials and processes for the purpose, turning them into an aircraft that has yet to be surpassed to this day). In other words, the man was arguably a genius.

    And yet. And yet.

    When Johnson retired, he turned the shop over to his second in command, Ben Rich. Ben was right there from day one with Kelly and the CIA’s Project Archangel (the 12th of which–Article 12, the A-12–became the first of the Blackbirds we all know). So he knew a thing or two. And shortly after he took over the shop, an engineer came to him with information from a Russian journal–information which Ben knew right away could make airplanes “stealthy”.

    Kelly was retired, but he was still The Old Man in the Skunk Works. He still hung out. And do you know what he finally said to Ben Rich as he and his team was in the middle of developing stealth technology?

    “Ben, you’re wasting your time on this stealth stuff. Nothing can come of it.”

    And so it goes with old retired “experts”, even geniuses that at one time deserved the label.

    I read the words of Bob Lutz with this Skunk Works story in mind. Lutz may have been there and done that, but that doesn’t mean anything today.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      Your story has a kernel of truth, but unless you have a good reference to the contrary, I don’t believe your supposed quote from Kelly Johnson.

      The A-12 / SR-71 already had some stealthy elements by design. The “Have Blue” stealth project, which would become the F-117A, was started shortly BEFORE Johnson retired as Director of the Skunkworks. However, the Lockheed Skunkworks stealth project was headed by Ben Rich. After retirement, Johnson didn’t just “hang out” in the top secret Skunkworks, he was retained as a consultant.

      Johnson believed that a rounded design would be the best trade-off between stealth and aerodynamics. The math behind the Russian paper was used to create a computer program, which showed that a faceted design would be superior at providing a stealthy radar cross-section. The resulting design for optimal stealth had very poor aerodynamics, which Johnson was not impressed with. However, it met the parameters of the DARPA competition better than the other entrant from Northrop, so it was selected for further development into the F-117A.

      Given that newer stealth plane designs actually did make trade-offs in stealth to improve performance, and don’t look so much like the F-117A, Johnson’s intuition was probably correct.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        It was a loose quote, but “you’re wasting your time” were the words Ben Rich quoted Johnson as saying.

        See “Skunk Works” by Rich and Leon Janos, toward the end of chapter 1. Johnson didn’t want Rich to fail, thought it was a “high-risk project with little apparent long-range potential”.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “The “Have Blue” stealth project, which would become the F-117A, was started shortly BEFORE Johnson retired as Director of the Skunkworks.”

        No.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Maximum Bob should focus on retirement. The prognostications by just about any 86 year old are generally silly and his are no different.

    I 100% guarantee that in 20 years we will be, wait for it, driving around in cars that we own. Some may be electric, some might be gas and yup, some might even be oil burners.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      The prognostications by idiotic young “visionaries” are worth even less.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Economies so overfinancialized they reward prognostication over demonstration, is the root of all worthlessness.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        For the sake of clarity.
        I am not young.
        I am not a visionary per se.
        I am certainly not an idiot. Outspoken maybe.

        Automotive ownership may transform, but car ownership by the masses is not changing anytime soon let alone the next 20 years. How do I know?
        The belief was that we would be in flying cars today, when the 60 year old car in my garage was sold new. Did not quite work out that way did it?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Injured in an autonomous vehicle accident? Call Dewey, Cheatum and Howe at the number shown below. We don’t get paid unless you collect!! Privacy issues: Who will be able to see each and every address you input into your autonomous vehicle? How will weather affect these “trains” of autonomous cars? Think any large city in a snowstorm. I don’t wanna do my Sunday morning errands in an autonomous car that reeks of heaven knows what from Saturday night revelers; far less any “debris” left behind. There are more questions than answers about autonomous vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “Privacy issues: Who will be able to see each and every address you input into your autonomous vehicle? ”

      The last few rentals I drove had bluetooth phone pairings of previous drivers. Granted, this info is pretty harmless, but from your example, we see it can easily grow into a bigger problem in the future.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I too think the near future isn’t as autonomous as Bob or others in the industry. I see systems also supplementing drivers for the time being, not replacing them.

    The ride sharing thing also doesn’t work for most people. I think that’s another thing that’s being over estimated. I’m writing this from a layover at DFW. I figured I’d make lemonade out of lemons that I’ve been handed. I decided to go to Hard 8 BBQ near by. Each Lyft ride was over $15 at an off peak time, for about a ten minute drive. If I was to replace my car with one of these services, I would go broke.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “Car and Driver is done”

    Or as one internet wag put it, it will be called “Car and Rider.” That said, imagining the future is a useful exercise. It’s not so much about being right as it is to explore the possibilities. I also won’t rule out Lutz is trying to be entertaining. His disdain for the very future he foresees makes it a warning, and a call to arms for smarter people to come along and change what might happen. Like most of us here, I think much of his vision will not come to pass.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    “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.”

    I smoked a few funny cigarettes in college, but none that good, apparently.

    The millions of commercial drivers aren’t going to take that lying down, nor will they vote for those legislators who would attempt it.

    My prediction: I’ll still be pumping gas in my personal conveyance in 20 years, and more than likely the 20 past that.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      Ranger M

      Truck drivers are not going to have a choice. I’m sure you know the laws that affect how long a big rig driver can drive (currently 10 hours I believe) and then you have a self driving big rig that can go 24/7 save for fuel stops.

      Do you know how appealing that is to the distribution model and common carrier owners?

      • 0 avatar
        RangerM

        I’m sure it’s appealing.

        I’m also pretty sure that anything that the Teamsters could do to slow these driverless trucks, they’ll do. They sure won’t support politicians who vote these policies in place.

        The recent protest against the ELD mandate is only the tip of the iceberg.

        • 0 avatar
          CKNSLS Sierra SLT

          The ELD mandate will keep teamsters honest. I am assuming some independents still keep “two sets of books”.

          I agree that the union will do ANYTHING IT CAN to slow the phase in of self driving rigs-but the economies of a 24/7 moving truck will be too great for them to stop them being used.

        • 0 avatar
          dont.fit.in.cars

          The trucking industry wants lower aged drivers, lower cent per mile, and automation. Been at a truck stop lately….10-15% foreign. H1B drive by congress isn’t for computer geeks.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “I’m also pretty sure that anything that the Teamsters could do to slow these driverless trucks, they’ll do.”

          No doubt they’ll use the same tactics they used–and use–to stop them furrin’ auto plants in the south, those ones daring not to use union labor.

          Oh, wait…

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        This is why we need to deal with automation in a sensible manner. Automation will eliminate vast numbers of jobs. The people displaced should not end up on the street. Income redistribution is essential. Reeducation should be available and free. There is plenty people could be doing instead of boring jobs like driving trucks.

  • avatar
    NG5

    I wonder what Mr Lutz thinks about motorcycles.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Self driving cars and transportation on demand (i.e. Uber-or ride share, or what ever it will be) will certainly do away with many 2 car households-and make them a single car household.

    That alone will have an affect on the car industry.

  • avatar

    My question is how can they design a robot that can handle the many vagaries of the driving environment
    when they can’t make one that can answer a phone nearly as well as a human?

    I don’t doubt that they’ll do it eventually but perhaps not as soon as Lutz thinks.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      “Your ride is very important to us. Your ride request will be handled in the order received. There are… 4 … riders ahead of you. Thank you for your patience.”
      [cue instrumental version of Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You”]

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      That’s actually not the hard part. You can use sensors that detects things human eyes and ears cannot: Lidor sensor, sonar, wireless network between cars around you so your car “sees what their cars sees”.

      When developed correctly they will actually handle the road better than a human can.

      WARNING: the cars 200 yards in front of you detects a stability condition: left front tires ABS engaged for 20 ms. Slow down to 23 mph and notify the car behind you, slow down begin in 25 yards with maximum 0.5G deceleration.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Three automated cars self-driving down the road: a sedan, a compact, an SUV. The sedan encounters a pot-hole, steers around and notifies the other two. The compact finds room to go around. The SUV slows down and just goes over it.

        Yes, vehicle to vehicle communications would be a great aid. And this scenario would be more likely than Lutz’s platooning pods at 120mph on perfect roads.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Bob’s been away from real car and truck enthusiasts too long. There will always be car and truck crazy guys and gals who’ll want to build and work on their own vehicles and have pride of ownership. It won’t be legislated away either.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I think self-driven will get banned first in major downtown cores. Particularly if vehicle terrorist attacks continue to happen. This could be THE driving factor towards early autonomous adoption.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      This. Most modern cars today are able to stop you from hitting people or things already. I suspect fully autonomous cars will take longer to replace people driven cars, but even those driven by people will restrict your freedom.
      Most large truck drivers should start looking for ways to spend their extra spare time very soon though.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      I suspect that eventually a robotic truck will be turned into a weapon, remotely, by terrorist hackers. Sorry for the dire prediction.

    • 0 avatar
      Nedmundo

      Exactly. I think autonomous vehicles will take over first in the most densely populated areas, with human-driven vehicles (other than bicycles) banned in the downtowns of large cities first. Then they’ll spread to highways for long distance travel, and eventually to rural areas.

      Large cities are already moving in this direction, with prohibitively expensive tolls for entry in some cases (NYC, London), major streets becoming car-free (Broadway near Times Square), and special days on which driving is prohibited in certain areas.

      In Philly, we’ve had the latter, which were inspired by the Pope’s visit a few years ago, during which cars were banned in Center City. Honestly, it was awesome, so folks have clamored for more “car free” days, and we had one a couple of weeks ago for a stretch of North Philly. I believe Paris has done something similar.

      I’m not sure about Lutz’s 20 year timeframe, but it will happen, and the impediments aren’t technological. They’re about infrastructure, finance, and social/political will.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “I think self-driven will get banned first in major downtown cores.”
      I think self driving will be eliminated from dense urban centres first, but it doesn’t need to get banned, cities just need to eliminate downtown parking. Hopefully they use some of the space that’s freed up for bike paths, so those of us who want a more involving transportation option still have a choice.

      Even when autonomous driving becomes the norm, which I expect will be in the next 20 years or so, I doubt that human operated vehicles will be outright banned. Cars largely replaced horses, but it’s still legal to ride a horse, and people still do, just not as often as before – and usually not to go downtown to work.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Perhaps in *some* downtown cores, but not all.

      Not all downtown cores are created equal. Downtown Kansas City, or Denver, or Minneapolis is NOT the same as Manhattan.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      They can still do terrorist attack with a car full of bombs, or drone, or a delivery vehicles.

      Downtown traffic and pollution would be the biggest reason, but it won’t be for driverless car, more like driverless van or bus you need to transfer into.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Lutz was never the head of GM.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I see mass transit and very dense areas of population as the future for over half the population. This is cheaper.

    This approach has already started in Australia. Inter connected, populated nodes of humans.

    There will be individual car ownership. But it will become expensive. But this is more than 20 years out.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I see a huge number of people moving OUT of the densely populated, high tax areas of the East Coast and the West Coast of America, and moving to the wide open spaces.

      Saw this over several decades and the pace picked up after 1985.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Retirees are moving from higher-cost areas into the rural areas of the west.

        Everyone else who’s moving here is moving into cities.

        Hard for someone who doesn’t have a guaranteed retirement income to make a living in some small town in New Mexico, you know?

  • avatar
    sgtjmack

    Did Bob take a nap while ‘The Fifth Element’ was on the television? Oh, wait, there were still humans driving cabs in that futuristic movie.

    Well, we can all dream and have visions of various utopia type settings. But I don’t see many of his predictions happening in 20, or even 200 years. There are too many people that need to go places at the same time for individual car ownership to be non-existent. I do see the ability for cars of the future to communicate with one another so that there are less collisions and we are able to drive at faster speeds as well as lessen the need for stop signs and stop lights. But you can’t force people to buy items, and millions of Americans alone have regular cars and may not want the extra burden of being forced to trade in a perfectly fine car that may be paid off or affordable on a fully autonomous vehicle that has a huge price tag. (Please don’t remind me of the unconstitutional Obama Care being forced upon millions of Americans. As we have seen, that has been a failure).

    • 0 avatar

      If only I had a MultiPass so I could get a ride in a LutzPod to my ObamaCare appointment. Where do I sign up?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      ” perfectly fine car that may be paid off or affordable ”

      What you’re forgetting is adverse selection’s impact on car insurance. It could very easily happen that manually driven cars will become prohibitively expensive to insure as anything other than occasional Sunday drive antiques.

      You’ve got your panties in a twist about a government mandate when it will be the free market, via the insurance industry, that takes you car away.

  • avatar

    the guy is an epic fail, used to sleep thru Annual Meetings and was part of Red Ink Rick’s bankrupt management.

  • avatar
    AtoB

    “It would be unreasonable to assume there wouldn’t be a similar backlash against outlawing traditional automobiles, delaying any laws that might remove them from the streets.”

    That would depend on whether there are any automotive insurance policy writers anymore after the world moves to autonomous cars. That is unless you can prove you have the assets to cover your liability.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    15 to 20 years lmao. Does Lutz live in a recreational marijuana state? A lifelong auto industry insider should know better.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The B&B are notoriously cheap so when Honda Mobility Solutions is offering a pod within 3 min for $199/month and due to adverse selection just the liability insurance on a beater is $400/month, I doubt anyone pontificating here is going to pony up all that extra money to have and drive their own car.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s what Lutz is leaving out: the very valid question of whether people will *want* to give up their cars.

    Undoubtedly some will. If I lived in a densely populated city like New York (or even if I lived and worked in the city of Denver, versus the suburbs), why not?

    But, sorry, giving up my car isn’t feasible given how I live. I’d imagine that’s true of a vast majority of car owners.

    Lutz is just being a blowhard here.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      How much extra would you pay? If a Honda Mobility Solutions membership was $199 a month with a 3 min guarantee, how much extra would you pay to have your own car? $50, $250, $500?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        You assume this will automatically be a binary choice. It won’t be.

        People who live in the suburbs are *not* going to go for this. Nope. Just too inconvenient. And if there are hundreds of millions of folks around that have no interest in this scheme, the market for self-owned vehicles will continue to be there. It might be diminished somewhat, but it’ll still be there. As long as there’s a large market, costs will be reasonable.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “People who live in the suburbs are *not* going to go for this. Nope. Just too inconvenient.”

          Wouldn’t you have to know what the dispatch guarantee is and the cost differential before you could estimate what people will do?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yes. and that’s data that neither you nor I have.

            But regardless…there is a HUGE swath of people this simply won’t work for. I mean, seriously…Mrs. Jones down the street has to call for the Google Bubble Drone to drop Kyler off at karate, Kylee off at ballet, and then run errands?

            When the Jones family wants to take a camping trip, they call the Uber Transpo-module?

            Mr. Thompson has to make sixteen trips back and forth to Home Depot when he wants to replace the mulch in his back yard?

            Yeah…no. And I don’t think those folks would care how cheap it was.

            I can see folks in the suburbs turning to autonomous drones for things like long commutes. But I just can’t see this kind of transportation model outright replacing the one we have now.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “Mr. Thompson has to make sixteen trips back and forth to Home Depot when he wants to replace the mulch in his back yard?”

            Why wouldn’t you take the bubble trucks that are always out in front of Home Depot?

            “Mrs. Jones down the street has to call for the Google Bubble Drone to drop Kyler off at karate, Kylee off at ballet, and then run errands?”

            Drop the kids off? The kids would be able to go to their activities on their own. That’s one of the biggest benefits.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Mr. Thompson *likes* getting the zillion pounds of mulch dropped in the back of his pickup.

            Mrs. Jones the Helicopter Mom will *not* trust her precious little snowflakes to the Google Auto-Bot.

            If you feel this stuff works in your life, have at it. Most people won’t, and I don’t care how cheap it turns out to be. Just sayin’.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        It won’t be Honda, it’ll be Amazon Mobility Solutions.

        And if the car is late, you get a free month of Prime added to your account.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      20 years ago people says hybrid won’t last because people won’t give up their V8 pickup truck for a 1L hybrid that has no torque.

      They are coexisting fine now in 2017, actually many households have both, and Taxis have switched to hybrids while pickup gets bigger and bigger.

  • avatar
    brettc

    After reading Bob’s prediction, all I can think of are the lyrics to Rush’s “Red Barchetta”. I’m amazed at how far self driving vehicles have progressed in the last 5 years or so, so I could see it happening in 20 or 30 years.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Interesting how people are selective about how much reality they allow into their thinking. When Tesla is the subject Lutz seems to be the realist, points out all the actual, real problems with Tesla and sounds like a wise men to casual observers not obsessed with Tesla. Then he casts his eye to wider auto industry and he sounds completely delusional.

    What advances have been made in the last 20 years in car industry? Lots of small improvements, nothing earth-shattering; cars today look very much like cars of 20 years ago except today’s cars look better, are a lot more powerful, a lot less thirsty and have a lot more gadgets. In fact the computers themselves have changed little in the last 20 years perhaps because the focus shifted to mini-computers which is what mobile phones are. While mobile phones are more much advanced than they were 20 years, again there is no major breakthrough technology in them. The biggest advancement has been in Wifi reliability and availability and it’s still far from perfect. It will take 1-2 decades for Wifi to become practical and reliable in automotive transportation, never mind all the self-driving nonsense.

    Scientific AI predictions have been around for 70 years now, always claiming that intelligent robots are just around the corner, yet decade after decade it hardly seems like we are getting closer. I remember a BBC article from a few years that looked exactly at these predictions and how the actual results seem as far off as ever. The article writer pointed to a simple case, how universities studying simple bugs, beetles, bees etc. find them incredibly complicated, so much so that up to now nobody was able to replicate just the bugs movement never mind it’s full behavior. Bugs are just about the simplest creatures on Earth and yet so complicated when trying to mimic their behavior. So once we get to the stage that we have an artificial full-fledged bee that is capable of pollinating plants and creating honey then we’ll have a starting point that eventually may lead to something like AI decades down the road or more.

    How are Uber, Lyft, Google, Apple going to do something that top university researchers around the world say it’s incredibly difficult if at all possible? Uber can’t ever run it’s own business properly never mind that its business model is not very rational or practical and is simply illegal in most jurisdictions. Lyft may be better at running its business than Uber but it’s using the same semi-legal business model. Google would have the best chance I my opinion because it’s competent, well-run, but also hasn’t produced anything earth-shattering other than its search engine. Apple has gone from teetering on the brink for decades to becoming the world’s largest company thanks to its phone business. But it seems to me that their ego has grown even faster than their phone business over the last 10 years. If anything I would see them going down in the future not up, too big, too arrogant for their own good.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well put.

      Seems some folks like to see these issues through their own “social lens.” Lutz apparently sees the big bad gummint forcing people into self driving bubbles, despite the fact that most people won’t want one to begin with.

      He’s basically telegraphing his own social anxieties, or just trolling for attention. Take your pick.

      What’s clear is that vehicles like this will eventually make up part of the transportation mix. And in some applications (densely populated urban areas, for example), they make all kinds of sense. But they don’t make sense for the majority of car buyers, and probably never will. For those buyers, I think we’ll see greater automation and enhanced self-driving capability.

      But Lutz’s future musings strike me more as a cry for attention (and probably clicks) than a thoughtful analysis.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      You could have added to the “just around the corner” list, a cure for cancer. I would not be too optimistic about the future of car companies. Owning a car has become increasingly expensive; and millennials and Gen-Yers have shown a high preference for urbanized living where a car is only occasionally needed. As others have pointed out, highly dense urban areas are making private cars increasingly unwelcome. Those environments are uniquely suited to automated taxis (Uber and Lyft are no more than unlicensed taxi services) and automated delivery vehicles; and mass transit is most cost-effective there. So the market for new cars probably will shrink over time.
      The real disruptive force is more likely to come is post WW2 suburbanized cities, like LA, Houston, Denver, Washington continue to become more dense, making mass transit more efficient and private cars less efficient means of getting around.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      The old ways of doing computer visions is dead. No one look at pixels between multiple shots to check for lines and contrasts to detect objects they know anymore.

      These days computer throw a bunch of known images of “cats” together and after about 1 million of them, they correlate and figure out what is a “cat” by trial and error. We don’t know how the determination is done, and neither do the computer, but they have seen enough that they are pretty sure it is a “cat”.

      The skynet is here.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    If he didn’t make these exaggerated claims no one would have noticed him anymore in retirement, so go figure.

    It would make sense that most cars would be self driving and you can probably haul a ride cheaper than driving, except everyone wants to haul a ride around commute hours so if you don’t live in a big city you probably will be paying rush hour fare and make it not so affordable.

    Before that happens drone delivery by driver less car or flying drone would probably eliminate most brick and mortar, and fast food. Also long haul truck driving as a career would be doomed.

    The big auto would enter service industry instead of letting Uber and Lyft takes over the whole market, they’d be competitors instead. Hertz and Avis didn’t eliminated auto dealerships.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think that as with most things, reality will be somewhere in the middle. I think there will be autonomous, completely driverless cars in 20 years. I think I will probably get my wish of a genuine highway-only autopilot in 10 or so. I also think there will be cars as we currently know them for the forseeable future (50+ years anyway), if for no other reason than the overwhelming majority of people can’t afford new cars, nevermind new cars with the capability of completely driving themselves. And I think MANY underestimate the power of “mine” – as some have already said, an awful lot of people could probably just use Uber, etc, to get around 100% of the time. I certainly could, and where I live is by no means in any way urban. But I don’t want to, and I don’t have to. I like having that sharp little white GTI out in the garage that only has MY farts in the driver’s seat. And most of the time, I enjoy driving it. I just want to be able to give the boring bits like slogging up I-75 90 miles to IKEA over to the autopilot. I’ll drive the 7 miles to the highway and the 5 miles from the highway to the store. Shouldn’t be a big deal for the computer to handle the in-between.

  • avatar

    I remember back when I was around 5 to 8 years old, Disney had a program on the future for one of the Wide World of Color programs on TV. One of the fascinating things presented was self driving cars. You get in, tell it your destination and it does the rest. To someone my age that sounded fantastic. The 65 year old me can still see the advantages, but also the disadvantages that many have mentioned here. I do think this will happen more quickly in dense urban situations and much less quickly in sparse rural areas (where I live). Like JohnTaurus I won’t be around to see it most likely, but it would be interesting to see the exact form it eventually takes.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    And by the way, as long as these self-driving autonomous transportation pods are still carrying one person at a time, we won’t eliminate any traffic on the roads. Best case, you eliminate the need to park all the personal cars that are no longer being left there while the owner is at work or wherever.

    But on the road itself? The madness will only continue its rate of increase. The only thing that will make it seem like less traffic is that the autonomous self-driving pod WON’T BE STARING AT HIS FSCKING CELL PHONE WHILE HE’S AT THE FRONT OF THE LINE AT A RED LIGHT and therefore won’t be adding a 7 second delay between “light goes green” and “first car enters the intersection because the driver is finished with that Facebook update”.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    If consumers ultimately save $$ (ride share, hail, co-op, whatever) it’ll happen. Someday there’ll be the fateful 911 call “There’s an old man driving a car!”

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Maybe before big gubment decides to to turn to autonomous driving, they spend the money to fix the bridges and the miles and miles of potted roads across the country?

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