Automakers aren’t ready to introduce fully autonomous cars yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they appear. Not one to shy away from bold predictions, industry veteran Bob Lutz is saying that the automotive era will be over in 20 years at the latest. Around this time, shared autonomous modules will rule the road, and lawmakers will have put an end to humans driving on public highways.
Lutz has worked at BMW, Chrysler, and Ford, and most recently was the vice chairman for General Motors until 2010. During his 47 years in the global auto industry, he has seen plenty of changes, and was an early proponent of electric cars. Now, if Lutz proves correct, even bigger changes are approaching not only for the general public but also for traditional automakers.
Lutz sees a future of autonomous modules that don’t offer the option of human control. We’ll simply order a ride, input an address, and travel idly along in the module at higher speeds than we’re used to driving, perhaps up to 150 mph. “As you approach your exit, your module will enter deceleration lanes, exit and go to your final destination. You will be billed for the transportation. You will enter your credit card number or your thumbprint or whatever it will be then,” Lutz wrote in an article for Automotive News. Some modules will ride inside high-speed trains and drop off passengers at given locations, and some will accommodate individual transportation.
He gets even more specific, saying people will eventually have a “transition period” of five years to get their cars off the road. More fortunate individuals will still have vehicles, but they’ll be relegated to the track or other special locations.
Performance metrics won’t matter, either, because cars won’t need to pass each other on the highway. Lutz calls this the “death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.” The transportation modules will not wear the badge of an automaker, but instead they will be branded with the name of the operating company such as Lyft or Uber. These types of services will own and purchase the modules in the future, not individual customers.
Lutz isn’t the only one to make less-than-optimistic predictions about the future of driving. A few years ago, Musk said driving may be outlawed in the distant future because it’s simply too dangerous.