The gargantuan shit-fest that was 2016 is finally over, and that means two things. First, we’re back at the North America International Autoshow, and secondly, we had an excuse to get drunk on camera and call it an ‘end of year special.’ The latter you can watch here (NSFW) if you’re interested, but first, bear with me while I dissect the best that motor city had to offer.
Being DriverMod, we walked in with an eye out for anything resembling a sports car. Several press releases later, one thing was overwhelmingly obvious; things are changing at a blinding rate. It’s no secret that autonomous cars are the future, but what was shocking to us, was how apparent it is that that future is right around the corner.
Virtually everyone had some autonomous concept. Volvo announced a beta program for their full autonomous XC90, Chrysler showed off their ‘Chrysler Portal,’ a fully autonomous concept that‘s been annoyingly dubbed ‘by millennials, for millennials,’ and Ford dropped a bombshell stating that they plan to release a fully autonomous car by 2021. That’s no steering wheel, no brake pedal, nothing. That’s not including companies like Tesla and Uber who are both in the testing phases of fully autonomous vehicles.
Now, we realize that these are concepts, but we’re also of the belief that concepts are a whole lot more important than most people realize. Manufacturers don’t spend millions on concepts simply to prove what they can do – they build these things to gauge public perception of the cars that they’re planning on building five years from now, before receiving a dismal sales report (See: Pontiac Aztek). At this point, the question is not when or if autonomous cars have a future, but rather how they’ll look and operate.
The big question is then; where does that leave us as driving enthusiasts? I think it’s important to remember how much good this technology will bring to the world. People that were never able to drive before (children, disabled people, etc.) will now be able to enjoy the same sort of mobility that we’ve known for over a century. More so, if all vehicles became autonomous, we would save twice as many lives as if murder in the US magically stopped being a thing (assuming autonomous cars don’t murder pedestrians). Source: (1) (2)
That‘s not to say that driving is dead – far from it. Driving is so intertwined in Western society that it’ll almost always be a thing, meaning that if you want to drive a car, you’ll be able to. Companies wouldn’t be building driver focused, manual transmission cars like the Mazda Miata and the Focus RS if they didn’t think there was a market for them.
Take a look at the sort of resistance lawmakers face when trying to issue gun control legislation, and the only thing more American than a gun is a Corvette. My point is, don’t believe autonomous cars are the enemy and will lead to drivers being legislated into oblivion. If anything, they’ll take drivers off the road who arguably never should have been there in the first place, making it safer for you and your Sunday toys.