Fading Interest in Driving? How many mistakes can a robotic car make and still be unquestionably better than a human driver? There's no question that the first autonomous car to run over a person will receive more attention by far than the thousand human-driven cars that will undoubtedly do the same on the same day.
Manufacturers, meanwhile, expect to meet with fewer reservations toward self-driving cars from younger people, many of whom have little interest in cars anyway and would rather check their email during a drive than put in the effort necessary to turn the steering wheel. This is a generation that might even be grateful to let a computer take over as chauffeur.
Market researchers have observed a "trend toward de-emotionalizing automobility," in the words of Stefan Bratzel of the FHDW University of Applied Sciences, in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. In one study, Bratzel found that fewer and fewer young people living in cities own their own car, and that many no longer even have a driver's license. How else can car manufacturers expect to reach these potential customers, if not with a car that takes care of the driving itself?
At the same time, developers in the field are coming to a bitter realization. "Driving a car will increasingly be seen as a waste of time," says Groesch.
At Mercedes' development headquarters in Sindelfingen, Germany, designer Hermann ponders for a moment, then says something that no longer sounds blasphemous even here in this temple to the cult of the automobile: "There are plenty of situations where I don't want to have to drive because doing so isn't any fun."
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein