Bob Lutz thinks as I do

The GM executive writes,

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.

Lutz thinks that this will mean the end of the automobile as a household-owned transportation apparatus. Read the whole thing. Pointer from James Pethokoukis.

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16 Responses to Bob Lutz thinks as I do

  1. This is an idea from big city bubbles. It will take far longer than that to tell Americans they are not allowed to drive their own pickup trucks. There would be rioting on the streets. Cars are as much a part of the identity of untold millions of Americans as are guns; probably more so.

    • MikeW says:

      That’s how it seems to me. Most of the self-driving-car thought seems to be entirely on getting around within urban areas, but there’s a lot more to the country than that. It’s important to me to be able to go to remote places up in the mountains, sometimes on roads that aren’t very good. I don’t see that kind of trip being automated any time soon…

      • MikeW says:

        I just looked back and saw that the statement was “legislated off the highways”. That might be believable — you have to put your car in “auto” when you’re on the highway (and maybe in the city). But we have to still have the option to go places the self-driving cars can’t go.

  2. Matthew Young says:

    Car ownership becomes a bit muddled. My car may take me to work and then drive off and run a Uber taxi for some income. The cars seem to be a bit ‘self-owned’.

  3. David W says:

    I’ve been confused by this idea that of course I’ll rather rent my travel by the ride than buy a car just because it’s self-driving. Fundamentally, it seems to me that renting will be bound to be more expensive *and* less convenient. Why? Because the vast majority of expenses for a car accrue per-mile. Fuel, maintenance, depreciation, insurance – these are all tied to mileage by fundamental physical laws. It’s possible to have a car that ages more than it wears out, but it seems the crossover point is well below the current average. There’s a reason why the used car market gives both the age and the mileage in the headline of most ads.

    A car I own does just the mileage I do. I do have to provide it with parking and/or garage space, as do the places I visit (which will be applied to me in some way), but in suburbia that’s pretty cheap. A car I don’t own, will do a significant fraction of its miles empty, en route to the next client, miles that still cost fuel and depreciation and incur maintenance demands.

    On top, when I don’t own the car we’ve added a whole bunch of incentive issues and friction. There needs to be a payment infrastructure, some form of inspection and cleaning (and liability for excessive messes), a tracking and dispatch service. Rather than having a car whenever I want, I’ll have it in ‘a few minutes’. Odds are that I will never ride a car that exactly matches my tastes, and I can’t leave anything in the car just in case (umbrella, jacket, water and a snack, car seat, blanket and leash, suitcases the night before I travel, the shopping from the first stores in my errand run, etc and so on). I also can’t travel anywhere that doesn’t get cellphone reception, because when the car leaves, I’m stuck.

    Pretty much the only case where non-ownership would be cheaper is in center city, where parking is at a similar cost to the car itself, or even higher if you only drive occasionally. It’s true that there has been some movement toward city living, but I can’t see it becoming universal, not enough to kill the self-owned car when it’s both cheaper and more convenient everywhere else.

    • Mark Bahner says:

      “I’ve been confused by this idea that of course I’ll rather rent my travel by the ride than buy a car just because it’s self-driving. Fundamentally, it seems to me that renting will be bound to be more expensive *and* less convenient. Why? Because the vast majority of expenses for a car accrue per-mile. Fuel, maintenance, depreciation, insurance – these are all tied to mileage by fundamental physical laws.”

      Actually, things like depreciation and insurance are not closely tied to mileage. With transportation-as-a-service, cars will be traveling 60,000+ miles per year, so the depreciation per mile goes way down.

      Also, with transportation as a service, cars can be much smaller, with much lower capital and operating costs. For example, how many cars do you see that have one seat? Now contrast that with how many cars you see with just one occupant. If one is getting transportation as a service, one person can be in a one-seat car.

  4. JK Brown says:

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

    This will only be possible with abandonment of democracy is all but name and the dictatorship of the regulator. Except in very limited areas people will not give up the liberty to go where they want, but also to save themselves by free movement.

    Remember back to September 2005, when thousands dependent upon others for transportation were left to the floods, to hellish conditions, to die. How would AVs handle an hurricane evacuation? Will all those things people pack for survival have to be left behind by arbitrary, incompetent official decree?

    And the AV advocates are endangering acceptance by over-reaching. Just the other day Instapundit had the story of an AV bus in Las Vegas that got into an accident within an hour of starting operation. Apparently, the AV was not at fault, the AV did see the truck, it did stop, but then it just sat there and let the truck back into it as the passengers looked on helplessly, unable to escape or get the machine to act to save itself and them. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but what happens when the danger is more acute? No one wants to be locked into a vehicle, watching the train bear down upon them, unable to escape, unable to get the driver to act, helplessly watching their death rush toward them.

    Have a couple events like that and the voters, if they are permitted, will not accept death by robot.

    To all this, the AV zealots simply claim, it will be better when all vehicles are AVs. Unsaid, is it will be when only “distinguished holders of important offices” will have access to “private” vehicles and free movement.

  5. MG says:

    How about adding: “…and the end of mass transit, especially non-bus mass transit.”

  6. Octavian says:

    I’d be surprised if this happens in less than 50 years. 15-20 is preposterous. Why is it that people in the business of forecasting technological advancement seem to be almost invariably delusionally optimistic in their forecasting?

  7. Dave says:

    If people like Bob Lutz could actually predict the future I’d have a flying car in my driveway.
    Automobiles are expressions of affluence and status as much as they are transportation devices. Will BMW drivers really give up their rides for scuffed up McCars?
    This is a dream of people who live in dense urban centers. It will take far more than 20 years to convince suburban and rural drivers to give up a key part of their lifestyle and get into transport pods. Sorry, Elroy. Don’t buy it.

  8. Dan W. says:

    My uncle has a country place
    That no one knows about
    He says it used to be a farm
    Before the Motor Law
    And now on Sundays I elude the eyes
    And hop the turbine freight
    To far outside the wire where my
    White-haired uncle waits

    I strip away the old debris
    That hides a shining car
    A brilliant Red Barchetta
    From a better vanished time
    We’ll fire up the willing engine
    Responding with a roar
    Tires spitting gravel
    I commit my weekly crime

    – Rush – Red Barchetta

  9. Adolph says:

    I wonder why Lutz thinks legislation would come before insurance fees being high enough to limit non self driving cars to wealthy collectors and closed circuits.

  10. Bryan Willman says:

    I think the safety and public good argument may fail. (This is aside from my skepticism that the technology will work anywhere near as well as boosters hope.)

    The “this would save a lot of lives” argument would suggest that prohibition would have been a rousing success, and would certainly not have been repealed. That a ban on smoking by everbody everywhere would have easily passed and long been abided by.
    That either guns would be banned, or everybody would be required to own and be skilled with one. That everyone would get vaccinated, wash their hands, and practice safe sex.

    The perceptive reader will notice none of those things has come to pass.

  11. DrSandman says:

    Revolutions have been fought over less offensive ideas.

    Expect mass disobedience, followed by civil war: city folk versus car and gun owners. It will not go as the political class expects…

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