The Car is dead. Long live the Car.

The Car is dead. Long live the Car.

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
24 Feb 2013

What if I told you that I believe that revolution will save the future of the industry but not before breaking it?

And what if I told you that the revolution will not come from within but from outside the industry and the harbinger of change is Google and its driverless car?

Would you think me mad?

If you consider the computerisation of functions in automobiles that has been the trend for the last 30 years – automatic transmissions, engine control units, cruise control, parking sensors, etc – then you’ll see that the groundwork has been laid down slowly but surely for autonomous driving.

The perks of removing the driver are manifold ranging from increased safety and efficiency to lowered costs of automobile operation and infrastructure to lowering insurance costs.

Of course the doubts and demerits are up for discourse. Let me know what you think about it.

I am of faith that it is no longer a question of whether it will happen but a question of when and how.

With major automakers like Toyota, Audi, and BMW having been hard at work developing said technology for far longer, it seems latest entrant Google is disadvantaged.

On the technical front, Google has made significant leaps in developing the hardware necessary for an autonomous vehicle. And by August 2012, the Google team announced the coverage of over 300,000 miles in its driverless cars, with no human input.

While Google's driverless Prius is not ready to take on Pikes Peak hill climb race in the way Audi's autonomous TTS has, it will not need to do so. Hardware for Google simply serves to be functional. The real game is in its software, or more accurately, the integration of its autonomous hardware to its various information networks.

Think for a moment: A car equipped with its brand's version of autonomous driving hardware but able to log on to the Internet and run Google's Street map, route, and drive you to wherever you want to go.

"Where would you like to go to today? To the office?" asks Alfred the Honda Accord.

"Yes," you reply, and Alfred takes care of the rest.

For the consumer, it is seamless integration of the Internet to reduce the hassle of daily driving.

For major automakers, it offers to be the common infrastructure by which vehicles can process information, route, and communicate with one another despite difference in brands.

For Google, it means being able to turn every street vehicle into a Google Street View car ready to transmit information on traffic condition, average speeds, etc. The information tide will allow for more accurate mapping and that in turn benefits drivers and the system.

Google has repeatedly rebuffed queries on if it will dabble into the auto-making industry. The stand has always been "No."

And that is the truth because it does not have to manufacture cars to irreversibly change the way we view automobile ownership and usage.

I said it would break the industry before saving it.

Consider a future world of Google driven autonomous cars; a world where the car has effectively become a discrete unit of personal transportation.

When most of the population sees cars as transportation and nothing else, would a car’s handling, performance, branding, and other intangibles matter?

This may all sound like a page off George Orwell’s 1984 but consider the ubiquity of today’s automatic transmission and wonder if it is the slow death of passion for cars in the general public. Already major automakers are fighting a decline in interest in cars and driving from falling driving license applicants to rising oil prices.

I believe that we, the enthusiasts, will be few and far between but we will still have our performance cars and cars that can and should only be driven by humans but they will be relegated to the racetracks.

These cars will be thoroughbreds for the job – to drive and be driven.

Man and machine as one. It will return us to why we all fell in love with cars in the first place.

Credits:

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