In one, a narrator mocks the biggest trend in cars, self-driving technology, as boring and overbearing, taking “the wheel right from your very hands.” In another, a man celebrates the fact that the Q50 can speed up, steer and stop on its own, via upgrades that show the luxury sedan has an “instinct to protect.”
Volvo now sells an SUV, the XC90, that stops at red lights, accelerates at green lights and can match the steering of cars ahead. Tesla Model S sedans will download “autopilot” features over the air this summer. Next year, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will offer models that can drive on autopilot, hands-free, and even park themselves.
The new technology heralds a big change in the way drivers relate to their cars. Few features threaten the traditional promise of the automobile — freedom, independence, control of the road — like a computer that can drive far safer and has no qualms about taking the wheel.
That has put automakers in an awkward spot to reach car buyers who are drawn to the idea of driving with fewer dangers and drudgeries but are still leery of self-driving technology. To win them over, carmakers increasingly are selling the illusion of control while, in practice, taking more and more away.
Mike Ramsey has more.