Ford and others prove me right on driverless cars. Again

Last year I saw CEOs of the car industry implicitly acknowledge that the world has reached “peak car”. It happened again, just worse. For them, at least.

Ford and others prove me right on driverless cars. Again /img/peak-car-from-conversation.jpg

Have we reached Peak Car, asks The Conversation? Of course we have. Just ask the bosses.

A few weeks ago Wired reported that the car industry “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles. Among other things, it seems that applications of Ford’s first purpose-built driverless car “will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced”, that is limited to areas with very specific characteristics.

This statement came directly from the CEO of Ford, Jim Hackett. This is the same executive who last year said that, since “cities filled with cars had become a threat to civic life” the streets and transportation grids of cities "[must] mutate around what the cars need”.

This, last year. This year, the same executive did not just repeat that a very deep remaking of cities is needed so we can buy its cars. That would not be news, because a deep remaking of many cities is sorely overdue anyway, for a thousand other, better reasons. And better transportation needs better cities, not smarter cars. But this month Mr. Hackett basically warned that that remaking must produce only one, very, very specific kind of city. The Wired piece contains other half-admissions that:

  • “a self-driving car that could truly go anywhere might never materialize”
  • “it’s not when self-driving cars will arrive, but where

So, what we have now is an industry sending signals that its main future product and hope for survival…

  • will not deliver what it promised (but we already knew that!)
  • except in a relatively limited number of very small areas (because it may just be physically to remake many cities in that way)

The obvious consequence, if you are still focused on cars of course, is that you would still need another, not-driverless car to go everywhere else. Couple that with the growing number of young people who are in no hurry to get a driver’s license, or just cannot afford to own a car, and you know which stocks not to buy. Other reasons why carmakers themselves are confirming that we have already reached peak car are here.