“This year Audi announced its presence [in self-driving vehicles] by sending journalists on Monday to drive the 550 miles from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas in an experimental A7 sedan equipped with what the German car maker calls its ‘piloted driving’ technology,” Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes for The Wall Street Journal. “Note that Audi is not one of the nutters. Its engineers go out of their way to distinguish themselves from Google ’s engineers, whose latest driverless cars come without steering wheels. Audi says definitively: ‘Audi will never build robot cars.'”
“Its journalist test drivers, who underwent special certification, were supposed to be able to hand control over to a computer when creeping along in stop-and-go traffic or when droning down the superslab. To maintain a fixed freeway speed, the computer was even supposed to be able to cope with slow traffic by changing lanes and passing without assistance from the driver,” Jenkins, Jr. writes. “But here’s a question: Why would a driver activate such a system except to turn his attention elsewhere? Yet Audi’s piloted-driving system expects the driver to remain alert enough to respond within a few seconds if the computer decides to hand back control to him. If the driver isn’t ready, reportedly the car will turn on its flashers and find a way quickly to bring itself to a stop.”
“Is this not crazy, the equivalent of an airplane computer dumping the job of flying back in the pilot’s lap just at the moment when 10 things are going wrong at once?” Jenkins, Jr. asks. “Which raises a question: What is Google up to with its driverless car, which it diligently subjects to fake real-world tests, though it will never be a real-world product?”
“Google has lately accrued some pessimists for 2015, analysts who believe the company is approaching a growth impasse, and will have to start becoming more shareholder friendly,” Jenkins, Jr. writes. “An obvious place to start cutting might be Google’s driverless-car efforts. But this would be to misunderstand the point of an elaborate charade. Google’s driverless car has become a branding exercise, a ticket to free media, a way to market Google software to auto consumers for onboard infotainment systems. Never mind the false expectations it raises in the driving public. Never mind the pressure it puts on real auto makers to pay lip service to autonomous driving they won’t be able to deliver.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: It’s nice to see someone else clearly understanding that Our Lady of Perpetual Beta’s pie-in-the-sky products aren’t innovation, they’re just mental-masturbatory marketing ploys.