Buy A Non-Autonomous Car Now While You Still Can


Kia Soul EV (autonomous test prototype)

Kia Soul EV (autonomous test prototype)

Autonomous Nissan LEAF prototype

Autonomous Nissan LEAF prototype


It seems like you just met your spouse, but it’s been 25 years.
It seems like you just bought your house, but it’s been 17 years.
It seems like you just became a parent, but your oldest child is 13.

Hindsight compresses everything. The past is shrink-wrapped.

Conversely, the future seems extended, inflated, super-long. Cars are going full-electric? Oh sure, wayyyy down the road. Gas cars will be around for another, oh, decade or more. And they’ll drive themselves? Aw, that’s way-out too. Gotta be an interminable fifteen full years away or more. Yeah, there’s no point in dwelling on that stuff now.

Oh yes there is. In the time it took for your oldest child to go from potty training to driver training, the automobile will start to look and smell like a horse. You like horses? Who doesn’t? Buy one you can imagine keeping for the rest of your life, and then proceed to do exactly that. Everyone needs a hobby, you know.

We’re entering a transient phase where we get to play with powerful electric cars. The instant thrust is an accident of the technology that Tesla is exploiting to the max. It makes for a cool party trick. If the silent grunt suits you, then make it your “horse.” Buy and hold one until the death. Before long, that thrust will be removed from your hands, just as babies soon lose custody of their parents’ totally awesome cell phones. It’s for their own good.

Automobiles will become horizontal elevators. Does the electric thrust of an elevator turn you on? Probably not. Zero to 60? Lateral Gs? Torque curve? Blah blah blah. That’s the language of old farts. “Grandpa is babbling about cars again. Let’s hop on a pod and get out of here before he starts humming Black Sabbath riffs.” That’s what your grandkids will say, and soon.

How soon? Consider this: If you met your significant other about 25 years ago, and it seems like a blip, then you’ve got one more blip before you’re either elderly or a pot of ashes on someone’s dresser. And as soon as you’re gone, the first thing the kids will do is take the horse out back and shoot it.

*Editor’s Note: This and other Tesla-related post appear on TeslaMondo. Check it out here.

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26 Comments on "Buy A Non-Autonomous Car Now While You Still Can"

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If this …

… is about accurate, then the Driverless car will conquer the world faster than the horseless carriage.

Because of their better efficiency, durability and simplicity, Electric Cars were not a profitable market for the established car companies, making much more profit on the maintenance, repairs and replacements of the fragile ICE cars. (Not even mentioning the Big OIL pressures and lobbies). So the EV revolution is happening at a very slow pace. (to my taste ;-))

But with autonomous cars just at the corner, all the huge markets including Uber, taxis, Fedex, Amazon, UPS, post, gov. services etc, the once seen as advantages of ICE (for profits that is) become handicaps, as all those clients will insist on having their fleets BEV only, as the costs of ICEd vehicles would impair any competitiveness.

TCO is already a given, and pretty soon the acquisition prices will be LESS than ICEs. And also remember that the more mileage you put on electric vehicles, the more you save.

You raise an excellent point about TCO. Already, my 2012 Leaf is about the lowest TCO vehicle I have ever owned. The only “competition” is in used cars, and even they were close (in $/year), since they didn’t last as long.

It seems that most individual drivers are unable or unwilling to accept that BEVs can be cheaper TODAY (and not just 5-10 years in the future when batteries are much more affordable). By contrast, any good businessman bases his/her decisions on TCO for the business.

Oh, and time is money for a business. All that time required to take the cars to the shop for service – that cuts into revenue, and costs real money in terms of paying someone’s salary.

Yeah I do think true autonomous cars are further off than what Tesla, Ford, GM and others claim but I won’t be disappointed if I’m wrong. I don’t like driving so the sooner the technology comes where I don’t have to, the better.

Just think of all the ridiculous predictions about technology so far…how recently they were made…and how quickly they were blown out of the water.

Personal computers?
Cell Phones?

Your examples are all semiconductors. Yes they have developed really quickly but other things haven’t. Where are the flying cars? In AI historically things have progressed much slower than expected.

True. Cars are not computers or iphones, though they have them in them. It’s not going to happen overnight. Also there will some resistance, you can have my ice when you pry my cold, dead, fingers off the steering wheel.

I was trying to figure out the wording half way thru reading this article. You nailed my thoughts exactly!

Re-read , Skip the “ice” part.

Yes I would say it with that twist too. “You will get my EV steering wheel from my cold death hands”.

Although one never knows.

Right. I was just trying to demonstrate a certain type of person, who will never change, no matter how much you show them they are wrong. Clinging to the past sort of thing.

I was paraphrasing Charlton Heston at the NRA on the fundamental right to have guns. Not that I particularly want guns but I want my steering wheel.

Excellent point. Processing speed, memory, disk, and data comm have all been improving at amazingly steady rates since the 1950s. All the amazing inventions – including the smart phone which no Sci-Fi writer predicted – came about because of these areas. But so many other predictions fell flat. Teleportation. Rocket-based travel. Space colonization. Fully autonomous robots. The last really hits at the problem. Consider computer-driven airplane piloting. As long ago as the 1970s it was thought that human pilots were all but obsolete. And it’s been true since the 1970s that for 99+% of flight situations a computer can handle everything just fine. The problem has always been that last < 1% – the crisis. Air travel safety metrics are now amazing – crashes are extremely rare compared to, say, the 1970s, and a large part of this is flight management by computers. However, the other part has been having human pilots there to deal with the exception situation. And this is also the problem with fully autonomous cars. At some point soon – maybe even now – autonomous cars will be far safer and less likely to crash in 99% of situations, but for the last 1% human drivers… Read more »

That cuts both ways.

There have been plenty of ridiculous claims that were, in fact, ridiculous. People have been experimenting with AI since Alan Touring, and it has been a slog.

Here is the truth: Today, nobody has a true 100%, full capability autonomous car, even as a prototype.

What we have are cars that under very good conditions, such as well-marked, good weather California roads, can handle 90% or 95% of driving, as measured by miles. But that remaining 5%, or even 1%, is really, really hard. And most of the world does not look like California. There are places with snow and terrible visibility. Sun at low angles a lot of the year. Lane markings routinely erased to near invisibility by winter. Narrow lanes with no markings at all, or dirt roads with zig-zagging tracks.

This is why there will be manual mode cars for decades to come.

A snow storm, fog, sun and complete darkness are not a problem for modern sensors. There are other ways to detect and stabilize the car than lane markings(GPS, analysis of the objects around… etc. Any kind of slippery roads can be instantly detected by traction control and dealt with by the computer.
Unlike other inventions, it’s not a question of developing a new technology or finding new properties, it’s only a question of software algorithms and analysis.
As long as there is sufficient real time CPU power, it’s only a matter of programming by smart enough people and self learning by the machines fed with millions and millions of bits of information.

But of course there will be ordinary driver-cars for a while and specialized uses for them.

FWIW I include myself in the crowd of disappointed persons loosing the controls and the fun to drive, but this trend will not be stopped. I predict 50% of the new cars will have the autonomous option in 10 years.

It can’t come soon enough, esp with the way I see idiots driving these days!

However, “soon” has to take into account those of you live in the “boonies”…. you know that place of relative low population density where they local stores still haven’t figured out how to have Apple Pay at the cash register.

For those of you in big cities, you will have it very soon. The rest of us, will still be using horses in the country for a bit longer I fear.

But I’m sure it will be here just a little before my kids are whispering about needing to take away my drivers license!

Had to think about that one for a second.

More Jim Jones Kool Aide, from Tesla Mondo. Can’t wait for a boring world. Can they?

We probably could go with safer, more boring daily transportation and shift our need for less boring to places like amusement parks and race tracks. You will be able to drive like a maniac, just not on public roads. Now, I did buy a >400 hp Tesla, but I would give those thrills up for a far safer daily driving environment. But it will take some time to cycle out all the existing cars.. probably another 20 years in total, well past the normal lifespan of my Tesla.

There are not that many bad drivers where I drive around and according to Trump I drive in hell so other places would supposedly be better. Of course there are bad drivers but those should be stopped not the right to drive of all the others. Beside even a perfect driving person or system can have accidents from a tree falling down or a tire blowing up. Zero risk is an illusion. One of my brother is passionate by immortality, biologic immortality. Once I thought him that if you run statistics on a biologically immortal person you actually end up with about 400 years lifespan because the non biologic death causes take over as death cause instead of giving real eternity. The same would be true of perfect self driving cars. Other causes would still give accidents. Additionally a brand new accident cause would appear, which is software crash or other related problems that simply don’t exist with human drivers.It may be true that global accident numbers would decrease just like if you limited speed to 10 mph, but what a world do we really want is also part of this debate. Enjoying driving is part of pleasures in life… Read more »

When the tipping point comes with batteries, and electric cars become the standard, watch for range anxiety from gas car owners as filling stations and refineries close. Soon after the only fossil fuel cars will be diesels running on used restaurant oils.
This will all happen in a generation.

Sorry, but the biggest fudge factor we’ve seen in technology for some time is/will be “autonomous car”, and especially the “fully autonomous car” variant. Those phrases will have to include more qualifiers than the exclusion list on a Staples coupon or the side effects list of the average drug advertised on US TV. Literally every day I drive in town, in the burbs and in rural areas where an autonomous vehicle would be VERY challenged, even in ideal driving conditions. Throw in poor visibility, slick roads, surprises like idiot drivers, etc., and you soon find out that you’re constantly taking control of your autonomous car. I’m no Luddite, and I would dearly love to see truly, fully autonomous cars arrive tomorrow. I think it would be one of the biggest (non-medical) quality of life improvements tech has delivered in a long time. But the mix of non-autonomous vehicles and those capable of varying degrees of autonomy will be a huge headache for a long time, and will limit where and when autonomous vehicles can be used. As just one small example: Will autonomous vehicles be allowed to speed? Yes, it creates one heck of a legal liability issue. No, and… Read more »

” an autonomous vehicle would be VERY challenged, even in ideal driving conditions. ”

Based on past observations, yep. Based on exponential growth of AI, we’re pretty close to a robotic car that is better than a human.

We will keep weekend cars (as we do now) for fun. Historical cars are usually grandfathered into the laws that existed at the time of manufacture.

For my commute, I would LOVE to have a chauffeur whether he is robotic or not.

Did you know that in 1900 there were more steam cars than electrics or ICE? But they required the boiler to get heated half an hour before a ride, and it was usually the job of the driver… he was the heater guy. And as the world center for science and technologies was in France in the 1800s, this heater/driver guy was named in French : “Le chauffeur” 😉

I can see the self-driving car around the corner:) but my kids would never ever shoot the horse 🙁

Thanks for beating me to it, Matthias! I was going to say…