Sweet short bus, bro.
So you think the future of the auto industry is anonymous, autonomous short busses running around, available to pick people up at their behest as they beckon for rides from smartphones embedded in their chests.
Well, according to one of the top auto dealers in Michigan, the industry is a long, long way away from seeing autonomous vehicles able to handle the rigors of the real world and at a lower cost than our current model. Sure he might be biased, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
“We have reached peak absurdity on this topic,” Wes Lutz, the chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said of driverless cars. “Self-driving vehicles are theoretically safer. But we don’t know if they are actually safer. And we don’t know because there isn’t anywhere near enough data to prove it one way or another.”
Bloomberg reported on Lutz’s speech, given to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, where he called on the media to get better at weighing claims about the technology’s potential, against its current capabilities, and the escalating cost required to push full vehicle autonomy past the “it would be nice” phase.
Lutz knows that traditional auto dealers will be left behind when technology comes to rescue us from ourselves, replacing costly car ownership with self-driving short busses, and ending the more than 37,000 highway deaths that happen on American roads each year.
There’s already evidence that Lutz isn’t wrong, at least in 2018 terms. A new study from AAA found the annual cost of using a ride-hailing service as a primary mode of transportation is $20,118, which is double what it would cost to own, operate, and insure a car.
Lutz, who owns a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealership in Jackson, Michigan, alternatively suggested that the billions of dollars being spent on driverless technology should be directed towards improving the driving skills of Americans. That was before he brought up the additional congestion caused by ride-sharing services.
“The majority of people aren’t taking Uber and Lyft instead of driving themselves,” Lutz said. “They’re taking Uber and Lyft instead of using public transportation, biking or walking.”
Lastly, Lutz asked the automotive media to be better, and root themselves in the realities of technology and economics, and not cave to the exciting future scapes promised by automakers looking to get “Wall Street all jazzed up.”