The automotive industry was a key focus at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and a major part of that was the development of autonomous car technology. Many of the major automotive manufacturers, including Audi, Aston Martin and BMW, launched concepts around connected and driverless cars at the event.
While the technology is still in relative infancy, Ford Chief Executive, Mark Fields even claimed during his speech that, “Driving with a steering wheel is as antiquated as wanting to ride a horse.”
Indeed, driverless technology is already a reality in some parts of the US and recent trial projects have also been announced for parts of the Netherlands and in London. A Boston-based analyst group predicts that by 2025, 13% of cars will have autonomous features, and Tesla boss Elon Musk expects that the company will have a fully self-driving car by 2018.
However, it appears that for some, the future is not all about the driverless car. Porsche has stated that unlike most manufacturers, it has no plans to develop a driverless car. Although the company is delving into the world of electric and hybrid cars, it appears that the view of its Chief Executive on the driving experience (speaking in an interview to a German newspaper) is that it should remain purely in the hands of a human being.
Although he admitted to being impressed by some of the technology being employed by other manufacturers, Porsche’s Oliver Blume stressed that drivers of Porsches are people that wanted to do the driving themselves, stating, “An iPhone belongs in your pocket, not on the road.”
This may seem a strange direction for the automotive manufacturer to take (at a time when autonomous features are being rolled-out across the industry), and one that initially at least, it may be taking alone. However, it’s not inconceivable that other sports car manufacturers, i.e. makers of cars that are fundamentally meant to be driven, may follow suit. Indeed, the CEO of Lamborghini has recently been quoted as saying that its customers wouldn’t be interested in a car they can’t drive!
Fields’ analogy of riding a horse is a pertinent one as the evolution of the car may, over time, follow a similar pattern as its equine cousin. For centuries horses were employed as essential tools for transport, farming and warfare. However, the advent of the motorised age left them redundant of those tasks as agricultural machinery took over on farms, cars became the preferred method of ferrying us around and tanks replaced cavalry regiments on Europe’s battlefields.
That meant that horses, or more specifically riding them, became purely a leisure pursuit. Likewise, in time, it will be interesting to see whether cars will follow a similar path – with driverless cars performing the more everyday, mundane tasks of mere transportation, and the actual physical act of driving becoming the domain of the enthusiast or ‘petrol head’.
Will Porsche be the future’s horses?