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Autonomous driving and the impending end of automotive vehicles

Split Image: dusty cars being stored in a garage on left, man driving an automobile on the right

We expect autonomous vehicles to roam our roads in the not-so-distant future. As this type of high technology becomes more and more available to consumers, the overall effects are significant. Recent studies support that autonomous driving has generated substantial attention and further discussions due to its increasingly widespread adoption. However, the long-term effects are seldom touched and considered. Due to the possible impacts these autonomous vehicles may bring, it is necessary to focus on the indirect and direct, negative and positive results.

Autonomous Driving Levels

The Society of Automotive Engineers International, a recognized standard across the globe, classifies six different levels of autonomous driving ranging from Level 0 up to Level 5.  Common and regular cars without automated driving features are considered Level 0, and vehicles with fully automated driving system that performs the overall dynamic driving task (DDT) without any limitations are categorized as Level 5.

On the market, the available level of autonomous vehicles is either Level 1, with stand-alone features like automatic parking systems, or Level 2 – includes a combination of slightly advanced functions to perform several parts of DDT. These functions are just part of the driver assistance system which fall under the primary stage of driving automation. Nowadays, vehicle makers are rallying to create automobiles that can be categorized under Level 3 and Level 4 technologies.


Bob Lutz, a Swiss American automotive executive and the father of Chevrolet Volt, expresses his concern on the inevitable realization of Level 5 automated vehicles. According to the former Tesla admirer turned critic, there is an impending long-term negative effects once automated vehicles reach their logical conclusion. Drivers will be forced to reduce to become passengers in uniform, soulless autonomous self-driving vehicles. At the most, it will only take 25 years before people who like to drive, and vehicle makers that rely on brands, to come to this realization.

During Lutz’s speech at the recently concluded SAE International’s annual meeting in Detroit, he summarized his article for Automotive News, which was published November 2017.

End of Line for Automobiles

“Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile because travel will be in standardized modules. The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway,” Lutz added.

“The OEM is the link in the chain that is the most vulnerable. Do you really care who made the subway car?” Lutz also stated.

The general public, on the other hand, not only sees autonomous driving as a threat to the legacies made by vehicle makers, but they are also looking at the safety concerns this technology implies. Latest surveys show that American citizens are far from being sold on the safety benefits of automated vehicles. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 50% the total respondents in America would still be concerned riding in a self-driving car mainly because of the safety and lack of control. Based on another survey, only 15% of the respondents prefer driverless cars to Level 0 vehicles. While it is true that some people (educated and under 45 years of age) tend to be less concerned than others, these varying opinions are treated less significant compared to the general opinion of the public.

Humanity’s technology has been increasingly developing at a fast pace, and with this people would always consider underlying factors that can impede or contribute to their perceptions of the world they are living in. With the advent of ride-sharing and autonomous driving era, tides are really changing for traditional automobiles.

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