Jaguar r&d chief shuns driverless cars; says customers aren't 'cargo'
GAYDON, England -- Jaguar Land Rover will never make a driverless car, r&d boss Wolfgang Epple said.
“We don't consider customers cargo. We don't want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B,” he told journalists at an event held at the JLR's r&d center here in central England.
Epple said JLR is working on autonomous driving features for future models, including a remote control function to allow the driver to operate the car outside the vehicle using a smartphone.
Epple favors autonomous features that assist drivers without taking full control from them, such as the ability to steer the car into a tight parking space from outside the vehicle. JLR used the June 16 event to show a Range Rover that could automatically execute a multi-point turn in the road and be maneuvered around obstacles on very rough terrain remotely using a smartphone. Both features could be available by 2020, the automaker said.
Disagrees with Musk
In March, Telsa CEO Elon Musk sparked debate when he said that authorities may “outlaw” cars driven by people in the future. Epple disagrees with comment.
“I don't believe it will be forbidden,” Epple told Automotive News Europe. “The reason is that lawmakers are human beings.”
Epple said he knows of a company in Japan with a computer that can speak and understand speech that gets to participate in boardroom discussions. “It does all the number crunching and says, 'From my point of view the right decision is C.' I don't believe that we'll have automated lawmaking,” he said.
Customers will always have the ability to take control on a favorite stretch of road, Epple said. Preserving this choice will ensure that the decision to purchase a car happens using the emotion-driven left side of the brain rather than the rational right side.
“People want to use the emotional side of the brain and autonomous driving does not generate that experience,” Epple said.
Automakers worry that customers' reduced interaction with the vehicle because of the addition of self-driving features will reduce the power of their brands to attract buyers.
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, doesn't see it that way. Earlier this year he predicted that autonomous cars would continue to appeal to the emotional side by redefining automotive luxury.
"They will be exclusive cocoons on wheels,” Zetsche said when introducing the Mercedes F 015 Luxury in Motion self-driving sedan concept at the International CES electronics show held in January in Las Vegas.
Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson provided another view. He told the Automotive News Europe Congress earlier this month that it was not the automakers' job to produce cars designed purely as transport pods. “A solution that just goes from point A to point B already exists. Those cars are usually yellow,” he said, referring to taxis.
Said Epple: “Very smart and safe autonomous vehicles will appear. They will have cognitive abilities and they will make decisions,” he said. “But ultimately it's you the driver that makes that decision.”