The automobile industry seems to be on a collision course with innovative consumer technology. It seems all cars could be fully-autonomous, electric, and smart in just a few years. While a world where no one needs a driving license and anyone can hail an Uber without a driver surely sounds exciting, the hard facts paint a very different picture.
According to Citi Research, self-driving technology just isn’t ready to go mainstream yet. GM, Toyota, Tesla and Uber have been investing in research relentlessly, but despite their best efforts it could still be twenty years before autonomous cars are widely adopted.
Mobility, connectivity, and electrification are issues the industry still needs to tackle. New business models will have to be developed to support the rise of robot cars in the future.
The last car to go fully autonomous may well be a Corvette. According to Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter, the car-maker could be last in line to adopt self-driving technology. The company has never shied away from innovation. It was one of the first to use composite materials in its cars, for example. But every change and upgrade has been aimed at making the driving experience better, not getting rid of it entirely.
Juechter believes the purpose of a Corvette is to let the driver enjoy the experience of being behind the wheel. According to him, performance cars have never been better. Over the coming years lighter materials and more efficient engines could make muscle cars even better. Perhaps a few autonomous features to help the driver, like self-parking. But the joy of driving and modifying a Corvette yourself will, most likely, be preserved.
Josh Greenwalt, CEO of RPI Designs adds “The Corvette will be one of the last vehicles to go autonomous because of the legacy and history of the Corvette. The Corvette is meant to be driven. The passion with most Corvette owners is the fact they can own and drive a world class sports car at a super price. A self-driving version would most certainly fall flat for GM.”
Corvette’s avoidance of self-driving tech goes against the grain. Last year, Audi unveiled an autonomous version of its RS7 that was able to match lap times set by professional sports car drivers. Someone even modified a Corvette to help a quadriplegic driver clock 152 mph on a race track. Meanwhile, governments may have to reconsider human-driven cars if the majority of vehicles on the road are fully autonomous by 2040.
Competition within the industry and government intervention could push Corvette to reconsider its position. Although it could take a while and Corvette may be the last brand to jump on board the autonomous bandwagon.