Advertisement

'Self-driving cars are on the back burner – for now'

Driverless cars were hotly tipped to be the future of motoring but now John Mcllroy believes they have been put on the back burner

OPINION driverless cars

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is now the season-opener for car companies. But many of the bosses present at last week’s showcase were as keen to tell us about one technology that won’t happen any time soon, as they were to plug the next big thing.

On the back burner? Autonomy. The fact is, car companies exist to make money. And right now, the biggest influence on their bottom line is not whether we have to continue physically driving their cars.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Driverless cars: everything you need to know

BMW’s board member for technical development, Klaus Fröhlich, didn’t pull any punches on the subject. “We never believed in this hype about Level 5 (so-called ‘brain-off’) autonomy,” he said. “With a lot of new technology, we can achieve robust Level 3 (where the driver must remain ready to intervene). But it will be like electromobility – taking 15 years until we can scale it to this high level.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, has flipped its development targets so that fully autonomous commercial vehicles (which can operate in more stable, restricted conditions) are now its priority, ahead of self-driving passenger cars.

As the company’s boss, Ola Kallenius, told us, “At CES three or four years ago, people were saying, ‘We’re going to have massive adoption of autonomous driving within the next two years.’ That has now been replaced by some sober realism. We’re putting trucks first for a reason: we think it’s the one you can make money on first.”

So what does matter to car companies right now? Sustainability, efficiency and connectivity. They’re desperate to avoid any restrictions on where we’ll be able to drive their cars, as well as the potential fines for missing CO2 fleet targets. And they need to appeal to younger buyers who are more digitally focused. 

The short-term future, then, is going to be all about electrification and more in-car tech. But not, it seems huge swathes of drivers with their hands off the steering wheel.

Do you think driverless cars are the future of motoring? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

'Sorry Jeep, but Kia now makes the best all-American SUV'
Kia

'Sorry Jeep, but Kia now makes the best all-American SUV'

With Kia winning the World Car of the Year 2020 award with the American-built Telluride, Mike Rutherford believes Kia has beaten Jeep at their own gam…
18 Apr 2020
'Costs may drop, but buyers’ expectations don’t'
News

'Costs may drop, but buyers’ expectations don’t'

Just because premium brands can offer cheap finance deals, it doesn't mean that they can fob buyers off with poor customer service, says Deputy editor…
15 Apr 2020
“UK motor industry – your country and its people need you”
News

“UK motor industry – your country and its people need you”

Mike Rutherford thinks the motor industry can still do more to help provide life-saving medical kit
12 Apr 2020
‘What better than a thumbs-up from an existing owner?’
News

‘What better than a thumbs-up from an existing owner?’

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler gives his view on our 2020 Driver Power survey, and is especially pleased by Kia's success
8 Apr 2020

Most Popular

New 2020 BMW 4 Series arrives with bold new look and a huge grille
BMW 4 Series

New 2020 BMW 4 Series arrives with bold new look and a huge grille

Imposing grille leads the way as the new BMW 4 Series takes a new design direction away from its 3 Series sibling
2 Jun 2020
New Tesla Model Y 2020 review
Tesla Model Y

New Tesla Model Y 2020 review

The new Tesla Model Y has the potential to be the EV brand’s most successful model yet
3 Jun 2020
UK electric vehicle drivers face charging point struggle
Electric cars

UK electric vehicle drivers face charging point struggle

The UK’s EV charging infrastructure is still underdeveloped according to new nationwide study
2 Jun 2020