Which Brand of Taxi Do You Prefer?

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If automated cars ever do become technically feasible – and that’s a long way off, despite the trendy imminence we read about every day – it will certainly mean the end of personal vehicle ownership, at least as far as new cars.

Not because the government mandates it.    

Because – why bother with it?

Take away being able to control the car and you’ve taken away the individualism of the car. What does it matter whether it’s a BMW – or a Chevy – if they all drive the same automated speed? If you just sit there and text or email or go to sleep? The automated car will go as programmed. You will not drive it.

Therefore, why buy it?

People don’t generally buy taxis. They hail them. Ride in them. Then get out of them. There is no attachment to the taxi. It’s purely an appliance, like a microwave but with fewer meaningful differences.

This is how it will work with automated cars.

But do you care whether your taxi is a Chevy or a Ford or any other make? Would you pay more for one vs. another?

Why?

GM’s Cadillac luxury car division – one of the biggest pushers of automated car technology after Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car operation – has this idea that, in the future, you will “experience the brand.”

In the same way one experiences, say, Outback – the steakhouse.

You experience that brand by visiting the restaurant and – for an hour or two – sitting at a table experiencing Outback’s food, wait staff and the ambiance of the place. But when you leave, you leave the experience behind.

You do not own Outback.

Just so, you don’t – or won’t own – the Cadillac. You experience the brand for however long you rented the thing to take you from A to B.

Cadillac is betting you’ll pay extra to experience their brand as opposed to, say, the Chevy brand. But arguably, they are whistling past their own freshly dug graves.

In the first place, why bother with separate models when all models – in the automated scheme of things – are functionally identical? Yes, there will probably be need for larger and smaller models – to move more or fewer people, to carry more or less stuff. But sporty models? It’s oxymoronic in the automated driving environment.

Remember: No one drives faster than anyone else – or passes or does anything else faster or differently. Because no one drives anymore.

The car simply goes as programmed – and they are all programmed the same.

No individual variance as far as as function. And certainly – by definition – no individual control. This will eliminate the reason for being for entire brands of cars, the ones which have defined their brand according to the different driving characteristics of that brand’s cars.

Mazda, for instance, is a goner – and the management realizes this. Which is the real reason why the company continues to emphasize driving and is among the very few brands still obviously reluctant to embrace automated cars.

This is also why brands such as BMW – which used to emphasize driving – have been switching to the embrace of technology during the past several years. It is not accidental. It’s not Me-Too-ism, either. BMW realizes that in a world of automated cars, it no longer matters how well a car “handles” or whether its steering is as precise as a laser sight. All automated cars handle just the same – and there will be no steering wheel.

The dashboard of an ’18 (and about $18k) Toyota Corolla. . .

Feel becomes irrelevant.

Gadgets become everything.

The problem with that – if you are BMW or any other premium brand – is that gadgets are the one thing about new cars that’s not expensive. You may have noticed that almost every new car now comes with an LCD touchscreen, for instance. And a pretty good audio system, too. You can buy a new “entry-level” car – one priced well under $25,000 – equipped with most of the gadgets you’d find in a $40,000 car. Or even a $60,000 car.

The dashboard of an ’18 (and roughly $40k) Lexus GS350. Notice much difference?

Yes, there are slight differences here and there. But the point is that any brand which thinks it’s going to get buyers to pay top dollar to experience their brand on account of gadgets is whistling past its own cold grave. The lesser brands will be just as gadget-ed out and most are already so.

Take away the driving experience and you have taken away most of the reason for buying the car.

The herd is about to be culled – even if the cows have no idea what’s coming.

. . .

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44 COMMENTS

    • Hi Bill,

      Yuge fan of them. They are – in my opinion – what BMWs used to be. Cars for people who enjoy driving. They aren’t the quickest – but (as an example) the four cylinder Mazda6 is much more fun than a V6 Camry. The Miata, of course, is one of my all time favorites. I’d rather have it than a 370Z or even a Porsche Boxster.

      It’s like a really cute girl who maybe isn’t a stone-faced “10” runway model. But she is much more entertaining to have around… !

  1. Nice to hear from you again Eric.

    I know I don’t have to worry about this, I expect you’re only a few years behind me. Kids OK I hope? Who cares about the folks who don’t care? Oh well. They want to give up their cars and their guns. Heck, I can understand. They’re not sure whether they’re boys or girls. Not much hope there. Thankfully, they don’t need us and I don’t need them. They’ll work it out or they won’t. I’ll be dead and won’t care 🙂

    • Hi Scott,

      Likewise!

      Unfortunately, this is coming sooner than we’d like. Pieces of it are already in place; already in many new cars. Did you know that in a few years, all new cars will be required to have automated emergency braking? Probably half of the current/2018s already do. Etc.

      The thing I sweat most is not the automated cars per se but that they will outlaw autonomous cars. That is, the cars we control.

  2. So who “will” own these self driving fleets of rental cars? I really doubt that it will be Hertz, or Avis etc.

    Will it be Google…or the fedgov….or some other equally charming entity?

  3. Seems like my rattlecan green (someday to be restored to it’s original Normandy Blue with Sunset Red wheels) 1947 Willys CJ-2A is going to become my functional equivalent of the Red Barchetta.

  4. Self-driving cars are a pipe-dream, which at best, will only work in specific areas that are set-up specifically for them. There’s no way they can do it, especially on a mass scale, without installing some sort of transmitters and or sensors on traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs; parking spaces; entrances to buildings, etc. etc.

    The current system relies on data from Google which maps the exact locations of traffic control devices, etc. On a small scale, with human oversight, it somewhat works- but on a mass scale, and without human oversight,v the cars just can’t do it- not even close; and the nail in the coffin will be that it’s impossible to keep track of everything via a remote centralized computer system, in real time.

    I don’t know if what we are seeing with the push for self-driving cars is being done on purpose, designed to fail- as a way of making such a mess of transportation and ridding the world of old vehicles, in an attempt to deprive us of virtually private transportation…or if it’s just the brainlessness and absurdity of the current crop of snowflakes [You have to admit, what we are seeing on all fronts these days, is pretty absurd…..crazy Roman emperor absurd!]- but either way…the outcome is not going to be good.

    • Maybe there”ll be a resistance.

      I can well see teenage boy in the burbs and ruralities popping off the tires of the empties.

      I would.

      It would be fun to watch the google driver get out of the cpu and change the tire.

    • Not only are they going to be able to do it, they can do it NOW.

      I drove Uber Select (same as Uber Black but the car doesn’t need to be black) in Las Vegas for the past 2 years.

      My passengers have included both Uber executives as well as engineers from the GM/Lyft partnership. Without exception, when queried, the response has been consistent-we have already developed the technology-we are simply fine-tuning it at this point. Additionally, i have transported people who live or go to school in Pittsburgh. Both report essentially identical experiences-when the cars first arrived, there were glitches. For example, If the car was at a stoplight and the light turned green, the car would not accelerate if there was a person that was standing slightly off the curb (as in a pedestrian that was about to cross the walk). Even if the person was not moving, the car would not proceed. This would require the car occupant to roll down the window and ask the pedestrian to step back onto the curb, otherwise the car would not move. These glitches have been fixed. Self-driving cars will be here VERY soon.

      • Self driving cars will kill. Especially when they get some age on them. That won’t be long at near 100% duty cycle. But maybe not even that long because even mere dirt and overnight frost will keep the sensors from working.

      • Fix a few glitches now, but as more self-driving cars hit the roads and thus their interaction with each other and the real world increases exponentially, there will be exponentially more new glitches…and ones which ultimately have catastrophic consequences.

        Not to even mention what Brent says about when the vehicles age. They will prove too complex/expensive to maintain all of these delicate highly technological systems in tip-top shape.

        Just look at what’s happening to the new military equipment- despite it’s astronomical money-is-no-object cost, the planes and missiles and ships, etc. with all of this “autonomous” technology are proving to be utter turkeys when they’re brand new.

        All of this nonsense, coupled with the coming economic collapse, is going to reduce modern technological “civilization” to utter helplessness. Even people who knew how to do things the “old way”, quickly forget once they become reliant on new technology and it’s infrastructure. Take away that technology and infrastructure, and the average person is going to be walking around like a headless chicken.

        Just imagine if/when the smartphone network goes down! The majority of households no longer have landlines….no pay-phones…no phone books….. People will be crippled!

  5. I’m not looking forward to “experiencing” the Sunday morning trip in the self-driver that’s been shuttling people home from the Saturday night bar “experience” either.

    These things aren’t going to be brought back and cleaned after every trip since they don’t make money sitting in the garage. And for sure they aren’t going to put service garages all over the place. It won’t make sense to bring them all back to a central location since that will add delays to the next pickup. The algorithms will figure out the best place to pre-stage the cars and I’ll bet there won’t be much more than an unattended parking lot at that location. So the experiences of last night that got left on the floor will be there the next morning, or maybe a few days if it doesn’t get back in the queue right away. Hope it does’t sit too long in the Sun.

    • I was told by an engineer working on the Lyft program that they plan on using predictive analytics. This means when a customer taps on their phone to get a car, the car will arrive within seconds because it “knew” you would need a car at that time. Sort of what Amazon is working on with regard to online shopping. That said, insofar as cleanliness is concerned, the cars will be rated by riders in real-time and there will be cameras in them as well. If the car is dirty, it returns to one of many strategically located depots to get serviced.
      A car is the single worst purchase a consumer makes. It is expensive and is utilized 4% of the time on average. That means 96% of the time the car just sits-depreciating in value and in useful life.
      What I thought was interesting is that the folks at GM/Lyft believe that automated cars will replace roughly 95% of the vehicles on the road. Very little traffic and GOODBYE parking garages.

      • That has to be nonsense. While Lyft and Uber taxi type services can maybe, and that’s a big maybe in commuting situations, there is no way that they will supplant the private car without coercion. A 100 mile Uber or Lyft trip would likely be $100.00. No one is going to pay that when they can jump in their family car and do it on about $15.00 of gas (assuming gas is $4.00 a gallon). We will see how neat that automated future works out.

        • Not to mention that c.20% of the puppetlation still live in rural settings, and an even higher percent in small towns and very small cities, where regular taxi services don’t even exist, because it is not profitable, and where even subsidized mass transit does not exist, because it just is not feasible.

          So you live in the sticks or in a town of 500 people and you’re going to call an uber to go ten miles…and the car has toc come from an hour away, drive you ten miles and then go back where it came from? LOL!

          What am I going to do? Call Uber (And I do mean CALL, ’cause I don’t use no damn smartphone!) and say: “Hey Bubba, I need to run some errands in town 17 miles away…send me a car…err…I mean a full-size pick-up or van, cause we’ll be coming back with some 50 lbs bags of feed, and some Quickcrete and lumber, and 2 weeks worth of groceries. They won’t mind waiting for 2 hours while I shop, and then take me to the building supply place…and then Tractor Supply…and then the feed store, right? How much will that cost? Oh, $450 ’cause the car has to come from 50 miles away and will be out of service for the next 5 hours and then need a cleaning after it drops me off? How did you know I’m Eye-talian?! Don’t you know, garlic is the new pot-pourri?”.

      • My own automobile will be cheaper than rides from a fleet of automated vehicles requiring an entire staff of people to take care of, capital investment to get a return on, administrators to manage, and various other costs. That’s because I am not a “consumer” who buys or leases a new vehicle every few years.

      • LOL! These dreamers are no different than the whackos of 60 years ago who predicted we’d all be living in colon[oscop]ies on the Moon by the year 2000 and flying around with jetpacks strapped to our backs. How’d that work out?

        How about the Amazon drone delivery? Walmart just nixed it’s 2nd scan-it-and-bag-it-while-you-shop test program…

        They don’t think these things through very well. Just like Ford axing it’s car line, as gas prices are rising.

        No traffic? How will that be the case if 95% of these cars are in use all of the time, and people still need to go where they need/want to go?

        It’s like freaking 5 year-olds are now CEO’s….

        Looks like Tesla Motors will be declaring bankruptcy before this year is out. Elon Musk[rat]- another dreamer, whose only real talent is raising money from gullible consumers, stock players and government officials.

        ALL of this crap is going to come crashing down virtually overnight. This is how empires disappear.

  6. IS it just me, or does there seem to be no reason to “Experience the Brand” for them, unless they’re trying to sell it to me?

  7. Driverless city cars and Uber? OK, I see that.
    However…
    We have no cell service within 20 miles, deer, elk, and cattle on the road, and some extreme weather.
    For me to call a driverless car or an Uber it’s a 45 mile trip, one way… TO GET HERE FOR THE PICK-UP.
    Then 45 to town, 45 back, and another 45 mile deadhead to get back to the nearest town.
    My, how efficient.

        • No shit MM. A friend recently asked if I had plenty of ammo. I’m awash in it I said. I have to shuffle my feet to get through the house or use a big push broom to clear a path. We got a good laugh outta that. The truth is, I keep finding old mags that I load as ASAP. Cleaning the recliner this week I found a bandolier with 6 30 rd mags, hadn’t even missed em. I enjoy loading stripper clips.

          • HA!
            Just remember for those in CA, or the north east, more than three guns and fifty rounds is a “stockpile” and an “arsenal”.

          • My 17 year old boy’s girlfriend’s dad is better armed than Guatemala.

            My family is, I believe, adequately armed.

            Can’t harm to pick up a brick once or twice a month though.

            • When in doubt, green tip out. Gotta get some of the new 85 gr. 5.56 bullets, punch through brush…..and other stuff and sidewind don’t much bother them.

      • They’re doing their damnedest to slowly implement that already- and have for quite some time. ‘Round here, the Tennessee Valley Authority flooded many square miles of small towns and farm land to create dams for hydro-electric; Some of those dams are ready to collapse these days, which will result in washing out more areas….but that issue is never formally addressed, though the locals are sure aware of it.

        Now, a new trend is: When they re-do and straighten/widen existing highways….for “saaaaafety”, they are creating bypasses around many of the already nearly-dead small towns….which essentially puts the nail in their coffin.

        They’ve already done a good job of killing off local small-town economies, so that everyone has to commute to a bigger central town or city to work, and eventually just figure “Why not just move there, instead of commuting?”.

        The county seat of my county- pop. 1500- was a bustling little town when I moved here nearly 17 years ago- but now it is dead.

        Suits me fine, as I’d be happy to be the only one around here (If only!)….but ya know how Uncle works: Those of us who don’t go along with their proddings, will eventually be driven out one way or another.

        • Nun, reminds me of a line from OBWAT when Everett tells Pete and Delmar “Why the govt. is going to electrify the whole darn state pushing us into a new age of enlightenment”.

          • 8, I had to look-up “OBWAT”- They actually have sites where ya can do that! I’d be tempted to give it a try, but I know, any time I’ve tried to watch anything that modern…it never works for me. I see Charles Durning is in it…gotta love that guy!

            He was in an ep of AITF (All In The Fambly)
            (Skip to 12:52)
            http://dai.ly/x3nx2p2

  8. Look to airlines to see the future.

    Some offer “World Class” service, reclining seats that turn into beds in a private cubicle, gourmet meals, drinks, free passes to terminal clubs and so on. And they use the same terms: experience the “United Premium” brand or what have you. And it almost makes flying a pleasurable experience again, almost. For this privilege you will pay an arm and a leg, leaving this “experience” reserved for the massive mile frequent fliers, the very wealthy, or the well connected that charge it to an expense or business account.

    For the vast bulk of the benighted flying public that cannot afford such an “experience”, of which I am sadly one, it is a nightmare of TSA gate rape, cramped uncomfortable seating, in cramped germy cabins, while fretting over delays and missed connections totally and utterly outside of your control, all while being barked at by the flying fascists flight attendant brigades, that used to be flirty, pretty women but are now mostly battle hardened old grandmothers or gender confused black men, any one of which will call the cops on you at the drop of a hat if you so much as look funny at them.

    This is the future of driving.

    You will be ferried about at one single speed, on one single route, in one single design, all under the watchful eyes of benevolent and protective government. You won’t have any control, you will not be able to alter the pre-programmed routes, you will sit in delays and jams and backups that will rival anything seen on the roads today. And if you resist or question in any way, state enforcers will arrive to curb stomp your ass and take you to prison.

    And the vast bulk of humanity will opt for the cheapest, most easy option.

    There may be a few outfits that will cater to a premium “experience”, but Eric is right, it won’t be enough to keep all the current luxury brand manufacturers going.

    The future is fail, for them and for us.

  9. Whenever you see a push for something like automated vehicles you should apply the principle of cui bono, or who benefits. The given reason is efficiency or “greenest”. The party that benefits in this case is government because the goal for this, and all globalist actions, amounts to total control of every individual whilst eliminating every right and freedom from all. The direct result of this particular move is elimination of freedom to travel…..it has already been severely curtailed around the globe and especially in the U.S. due to results of 9/11. What amazes me is how easily people have given in to this, but then I consider how effective propaganda becomes when force fed to gullible children for a mandatory twelve years. I had an interesting conversation with a millennial HVAC tech yesterday as he was replacing the ECM blower motor which I had diagnosed in my system. He spent about two hours after the job shooting the shit. He had resisted some of the programming, so there are some young folks who give me hope, but overall, I remain a cynic. FWIW, if any readers of this site ever find themselves in the Chattanooga, TN area and want to meet up for a beer and such, give me a shout out. And to respond to Eric, they will get my pickup truck only after the pry the guns out of my cold, dead hands. I believe that’s coming.

  10. The auto industry is turning into a bunch of appeasers(except perhaps Mazda).
    Appeasers: feeding the alligator and hoping to be eaten last.

      • Es mucho mejor que conducir alrededor en un “Coupe Neville” [Chamberlain] el palabra final en sumisión, que no ha sido visto en el mundo occidental desde de 1938 en Múnich, Bevaria, Alemania.

        Tienes razón, como de costumbre, que pronto podría ser nuestra única opción. Que dias felices venir sin decisiones dificiles.

        Un poco de los malos viejos tiempos reinventados y solo disponibles en nuestro Heimat si no actuamos ahora.

  11. Hi Eric, You are very right – the idea someone will pay extra to “experience” a brand like Cadillac is extremely stupid, the proof is, right now you can pay extra to “experience” an S-class or an E-class via Uber Lux or uber Exec. Most however (even those who have the money) choose to get from point a to point b via the cheapest and quickest Uber X. This can be seen by the rants online of hardships faced by those stupid enough to lease these luxury cars to run as a higher grade of Uber.
    Infact when I was in SF, (land of fairy tales, unicorns, and other wishful thinking), whenever I called an Uber X i frequently got a nice car, and when I would compliment the driver he would be annoyed and say how it was meant to be an exec or something higher but there are no rides hence hes just taking whatever rides he can get…… If this is their plan, wont be surprised if Cadillac goes the way of RCA very soon…..

  12. While it is true that an 18k Corolla looks close to the same as a 40k Lexus, people don’t just buy these cars. They Vans, SUVs, Pickup trucks. Will we be able to hail those too? When the full ramifications of automated cars become fully seen, there will be pushback.

    Many people use private cars for business and personal road trips 50 miles or more. Those trips will come to a halt in an automated car environment. How will the public take that?

    You’re right, they have no idea what’s coming. No one is raising these issues at all.

    • Hi Henry,

      Of course!

      But the idea – of course – is to get trucks and SUVs off the road and those who need them (those who live in the country and even the ‘burbs) into urban stack-a-prole apartments and such.

    • Also consider construction, delivery, and industrial vehicles that require precise trained hands to drive and navigate them on job sites, logging roads, or rock pits. Those will never be automated.

      • Very true. That’s one point I’ve always tried to get across to those that believe that all vehicles in the future will have no manual control. Also consider regular people, when they need to drive around to their back yard to drop off concrete, mulch, building materials, etc.

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