OTHER VOICES: Understanding the car of the future
DETROIT — Imagine this: You're driving in your highly automated, fully connected electric vehicle. You can make online purchases and find a coffee shop. You can buy stocks or order a pizza or dodge traffic jams or bet on a football game.
Since it's a beautiful stretch of highway, you get a little heavy on the gas pedal, enjoying the quick acceleration of the EV.
Then a sharp beeping invades your space. A voice comes over the speakers: "You have exceeded the speed limit. Your car is being slowed to 65 miles per hour. Your online account has been debited $200 for this infraction."
So … would you love this car?
• This column appeared in the March 13 print issue of Tire Business
That's no small question for the automotive industry as it bets on a "vehicle of the future" that differs considerably from those on the road today.
The traditional appeal of the car makes an enormous global industry go around. Whether you sell cars, engineer them, finance them, design them, insure them, market them — or write news articles about them — your livelihood depends on the unusual, even emotional, bond people have with the machine that moves them about.
But this is likely to change. I'm not talking just about a change in hardware; more about a change in the way the car fits into our lives, in the basic bond people have with them.
Today a car offers a private space, a refuge of sorts, and—at least when traffic is moving—a sense of being in charge. You can go where you want to go, when you want to go.
The connected, monitored, safety-conscious vehicle of the future largely may make driving decisions for you. Your route, speed and driving habits could be tracked. The car may be considerably safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient than today's cars, but in the manner of the slow-lane driver that most traffic blows past on the freeway.
When vehicles become ultra-rational, what does that mean for an industry that has diligently refined its expertise in the art of selling millions of vehicles annually with irrational appeals?
People name their cars, they see them as enablers of freedom, they remember their first one. They don't name refrigerators. What does it mean for the automotive industry if the American attitude to the car becomes more like the attitude toward a refrigerator?
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