Commentary

Driverless Car? Forget About It. Porsche Says Keep That iPhone In Your Pocket

The fundamental problem with pronouncements is that they can be remembered later.

This may not be so bad if whatever was pronounced or predicted actually comes true somewhere down the road.

But there are other cases where a statement that seemed totally logical at the time later proves to be beyond off-base.

There are many classic examples of this from throughout the years.

For example, there was the famous Western Union internal memo in 1876 that stated: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Or the 1943 quote from then IBM Chairman Thomas Watson: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

And then there’s the classic, from Digital Equipment Founder Ken Olson in 1977: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Of course, these types of pronouncements are based on the current state of a market, including a view of how far ahead can be practically projected at the time.

Statements such as these often pertain to new and potentially transformative technologies that are not yet fully baked.

An example is the early days of Facebook.

In October 2007, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the following about it: “A faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people,” and Barry Diller, then CEO, IAC Interactive and Ticketmaster chairman, who in May 2008 said: “Facebook is nothing more than the Princess Phone 20 years ago.”

These were extremely successful business leaders, which may show at least that not every business luminary is right all the time.

Which brings me to The Internet of Things.

As a new and totally transformational revolution in the making, there will be statements made today that either will or won’t become one of the keepers for history books.

It’s no secret that automakers and tech companies like Google are working on developing driverless or autonomous cars.

But on discussing its future plans, at least one high-end carmaker plans to leave the driving up to the driver.

In a recent interview, Porsche chief executive Oliver Blume said: "One wants to drive a Porsche by oneself. An iPhone belongs in your pocket, not on the road."

Blume said his company does not need to team up with any technology companies.

Only time will tell if every Porsche will require a driver behind the wheel all the time, or if the company follows the current market focus on driverless cars.

There’s no right or wrong in these statements, just historical context later. Generally, much later.

My favorite of all time was from Bill Gates in 1981: “640k ought to be enough for anybody.”

 

26 comments about "Driverless Car? Forget About It. Porsche Says Keep That iPhone In Your Pocket".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, February 3, 2016 at 9:20 a.m.

    Oliver Blume's statement may not be right, but it's right for his brand. If you're a driver or imagine yourself as such, you want the car to do what you tell it, not vice versa.

    Adjusting for inflation, Bill Gates' number today would be about $1.7 million, which I'll be happy to take if anyone is giving it.

  2. Simon Greenwood from Goals:Gains Business Consulting, February 3, 2016 at 10:06 a.m.

    Oliver Blume is probably right but has he thought that with the majority of vehicle accidents caused by humans we will reach a tipping point some time in the next years when Governments will start to legislate agaist driven vehicles because they are the vast majority of vehicles involved in accidents. The only place you will be able to drive a car is on private property and race tracks. To the majority us driven cars will be like the horse and cart a thing of past. Some people still use horse and carts but they are a minority in the Western World. I also believe less people will own vehicles. Most cars utilisation is low sitting in driveways and car parks 75% of the time. This is a business opportunity for once Taxi's are autonomous their tariffs will reduce making it cheaper to use a taxi to get to work each day than use your own vehicle. I can see companies offering discounts for taxi sharing. This could lead to less vehicles being required. It would mean less car parks, narrower roads, less street furniture. less road accidents. less traffic cops, less emergency response professionals. Our cities could become more open, greener, less polluted. 

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    Just to clarify, Johathan, Bill was referring to how much memory people would likely need in thier computers.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 10:14 a.m.

    Lots of good points there Simon. The debate about driverless vs. driven cars will, at the very least, be a most interesting discussion time.

  5. Gretchen Scheiman from Liveclicker replied, February 3, 2016 at 10:37 a.m.

    640k referred to hard drive space. And you are welcome to your 1.7MB of space. That isn't quite large enough these days, even for a phone. 

    But you do have an interesting point about the brand. The thing is, while Porsche certainly caters to and encourages a brand identity consistent with people who prefer to drive finicky vehicles, there must be a decent segment of their buyers who would be just as happy to have the ability to auto-drive for those long hauls down boring, trafficked roads. So this is probably something they need to put a lot more thought and consideration into.


  6. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US , February 3, 2016 at 10:58 a.m.

    THE BLUME IS STILL ON THE ROSE. A Salute to Mr Blume, HE'S A CAR GUY!!   He get's it.  All of this rhetoric about self driving cars is emotioinally wrapped in a blanket of faux-safety.  Reminds me of Nancy Pelosi who wanted to pass every legislation "for the children".  As I have previously stated, nobody ever thinks through the unintended consequences.  Techno-nerds, aka Big bang Theory watchers, can't be bothered with driving because it takes away their face time on Facebook with their 1127 friends who they have never met.
    My question is how do you turn over the control of a 5000 pound vehicle, with your family or friends on board, to an inanimate pile of plastic , routed to control center that could be hacked by just about any devious person who just would like to see how many cars he can crash?
    As I also stated , who has the insurance liabilities?  The Car? The GPS builder? The Server company?  What about an accident involving a death?   Who is accountable for involuntary manslaughter?  The Car? The owner? The Server?
    Can't wait for that 90,000 pound truck next to me on I-81 to go driverless
    And we have to work through this to better our lives HOW?

  7. Michael Strassman from WGBH, February 3, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    Love the idea or hate it (driverless cars), Mr. Blume is shockingly wrong-headed about his market, and I say this as someone who thinks Porsche makes the best cars in the world. Seems to me someone either hasn't been reading his own market research hasn't done any or hasn't simply looked out his windshield at Porsche drivers. For every enthusiast driving a 911, Boxster, or Cayman, there are 3 Cayenne-driving suburban matrons or Panamera-driving, status-seeking executives who couldn't care less how the car drives. In affluent Boston suburbs there are more people driving Porsches who, based on appearances admittedly, clearly purchased because of the name, the looks, or because their husband made the choice, not because they're passionate about driving. While I may be stereotyping some, there's no denying many owners purchase for reasons having little to do with how a Porsche drives, and they would be more than happy to pay for a driverless version of their commuter-traffic-crawling sedan or school-drop-off SUV, so much so that Porsche will lose sales to Mercedes/Range Rover/BMW/Audi if they lag in offering when it does come. If Porsche were so high-minded about the driving experience, they wouldn't have introduced the Cayenne, which, performance notwithstanding, has all the road feel of an SUV, which is not much. Nor would they have made the regrettable 924.

  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 11:46 a.m.

    Well Mark, you have identified the real issues aside from the technologicla capabilties, which will be ready well ahead of all that you describe.

  9. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 11:49 a.m.

    Thanks Michael, you oviously know your Porsches. The obvious questions is if the compan ultimatelyi decides to do some experimentation with, as you might suggest, wih a vehicle such as the Cayenne.

  10. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 11:51 a.m.

    Thanks for adding that, Gretchen. Their customers ultimatly will let them know what they really should do.

  11. Michael Strassman from WGBH replied, February 3, 2016 at 12:16 p.m.

    To Mark, I'm afraid your concerns come across as more emotional and less rational...not unlike the arguments against gun control. Just like no one can provide any compelling stats on the number of crimes averted or government takeovers thwarted by gun-wielding citizens, that doesn't stop the fringe of gun owners (eg. Texas) from talking about how much safer we all are when everyone carries a gun. Yes, there is something emotionally unsettling about giving over control of your car to computers, and I for one don't like the idea emotionally, but I've no doubt that some day in the future statistics will bear out that driverless cars are dramatically less apt to get in crashes than human controlled. But just as few horrific crimes make gun owners clutch their Glock, a few isolated crashes caused (or not-averted--big difference) by computer will cause those opposed to driverless cars to bolt up and say "see!, I told you so!". I will say that we are still in an awkward period when, although the technology seems to be there, driverless cars are not ready because it's been shown that driverless cars have a hard time dealing with human driven cars that don't act predictably or think that things like stop signs and red lights are suggestions (like in my town, Boston). That said, driverless cars are coming, and, no doubt, driver cars will either become illegal or more expensive in terms of insurance.

  12. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 12:26 p.m.

    Good points again Michael. No one really knows how all this will play out, but one certainty is that the technology for cars to drive themselves is coming/here. The bigger quesiton, as you suggests, is the complex transition.

  13. Michael Elling from IVP Capital, LLC, February 3, 2016 at 4:57 p.m.

    I can't help but feel all this AV and VR and AI talk is like the video and multimedia hype was to the narrowband dial-up internet of the late 1990s.  And we all know where that went.  Sure, Cuban made a billion off Yahoo, but where is the latter today?  And even if we still need to connect another 3-4 billion people, they are marginally less impactful than the 1.5 billion connect today on overpriced (narrowband) wireless networks.

    I buy into driver assist and all sorts of people assist technologies when it comes to the internet of things.  But the network reality today (much like the one which drove the internet into a narrow-band brick wall) lacks a lot of the capacity, coverage, security, cost, reliability, etc...  KPMs that will be required to scale truly semi-autonomous, let alone autonomous, ecosystems.  Without the right network there are too many institutional and socio-economic barriers to overcome.

  14. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health replied, February 3, 2016 at 5:09 p.m.

    Thanks Gretchen and Chuck, that 640K comment zoomed so far over my head I'm still looking for it. So where's my money?

  15. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

    Good on, Jonathan

  16. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 6:50 p.m.

    You may be, at the very least, partially right Michael. Driver assist willl come into play a lot sooner than driverless cars, for sure, for too many reasons to count. All that being said, the blasingly fast 5G is in the works, even if not yet ready for prime time. But each of those items you mentioned (capacity, coverage, security, cost, reliability) is an individual mountain and each one has to be conqured before any of the ultimae promise is realized.

  17. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, February 3, 2016 at 6:57 p.m.

    It looks like I'm one of the very few who actually enjoys the hell out of driving. If I have to haul a small crowd or a lot of gear around, and an SUV is the only option, I want to do it in a high-performance vehicle like the Cayenne. And, in the right car, those "long boring drives" may still be long, but they are far from boring if you truly enjoy driving. It's essentially a control and power thing, which probably says way too much about some psycho-nightmare from our younger years.

    But that's not to say that I wouldn't also enjoy getting into a driverless car and kicking back and relaxing, as long as the system was very safe.  In fact, I see little difference between handing-off personal control of a vehicle to a computer and handing it off to a cab driver, ... especially an Uber driver, whose only previous "driving experience", for all I know, may consist of driving an ox through a plowed field with a long stick.    

  18. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 3, 2016 at 7:20 p.m.

    You are hardly alone, Chuck. That's one of the major reasons any transition won't happen overnight. The UK has an interesting starting aproach, by using invidual 'vehicles,' but essentially on tracks or raills.

  19. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, February 3, 2016 at 10:39 p.m.

    Chuck:  When the first rumors involving driverless systems began circulating, the most interesting and possibly viable idea had to do with electronic sensors in the vehicle, guided by tracks buried under surface streets, using technology similar to many existing rail transit systems. 

    Drivers could opt-in or out of those electronic track lanes, in the same way they now do in the areas using toll lanes as an option. (For those who haven't experienced the electronic toll lane system; on certain highways you can either drive for free in the usually traffic-snarled regular lanes, or change to the faster, less congested toll lanes. A FastTrac electronic device in your car communicates with the toll service when you are in those lanes, and computes how far you've travelled on it, and bills you accordingly.) 

    As Chuck Martin points out, whatever happens will have to be transitional. And very carefully done, since the extra per-vehicle cost will have a broad socioeconomic impact. (Hey! Lookit me, Professor! That's the first time I've written "socioeconomic" since your lectures!)

    Anyway, as Mr. Martin's article illustrates, whatever system is finally chosen, people will definitely look back in absolute horror and disbelief to the days when people actually controlled their own vehicles in traffic. Then again, I'm sure most of us here experience very similar horror and disbelief every time we drive.

  20. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 4, 2016 at 9:58 a.m.

    Good insights, Chuck. And very good point about opting in, such as the FastTrac lane offered whe driving from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. Singapore has had a vehicle tracking system for decades, with sensors on each car that auto-bill the owner when the car enters certain areas of the city. Driverless cars have been discussed for many years, but more in theory and vision. Now that the technology is catching up with all of that, the major issues, as many chimed in here, are coming to the forefront.

  21. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US replied, February 4, 2016 at 10:06 a.m.

    C Lantz:  I think the responses have a lot to do with where you live.  Big City people don't like cars because of traffic , so mass transit is popular.  Out west, where I'm from, wide open spaces  sometimes produce commutes, and long open road driving.  For Example, The road from Vegas to Reno is 440 miles, and you can stop to eat and pee in Tonapah at about 200 miles.  That's it. Would a "driverless" car come in handy there?  The temptation is there, but what kind of technical infrastructure has to be in place to support that 440 miles?  Heck you can't even get cell service for 1/2 the ride.  I'm way too old school, and if they outlaw my 1955 Studebaker Conestoga wagon, they will have to pry the steering wheel out of my cold dead hands.

  22. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US replied, February 4, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    Not related, but yes it is.  Last night the ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM went down  at the IRS.  The "super highway" of information had a crash.  I beleive I'll get in my car and drive myself to the IRS office to make my payment.

  23. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 4, 2016 at 10:17 a.m.

    As you can gather from other comments here, Mark, some feel the same way. And that is a good point about infrastrucutre...Wi-Fi wokring sealmessly in very big box store or mall still isn't perfected.

  24. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 4, 2016 at 10:19 a.m.

    Right, Mark, obvioulsy we are not 'there' yet. Technology, like many otehr things, does fail on occasion. 

  25. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US replied, February 4, 2016 at 12:24 p.m.

    not acceptable that "fail on ocassion" means a head on collision that I may have been able  to prevent if I was in control of my vehicle.  How does  a driverless car react to a tire blow out? How about a piece of debris in the road,  how about a deer,  does the car swerve or slam on the brakes for a whole line of cars causing whip-lash to a bunch of people who weren't expecting a sudden stop?  Maybe we can put the road critters on the same GPS system or make them cross at the designated "Deer Crossing" Signs ??
    The list of reasons to be in control of a moving vehicle is endless.  This whole movement is encouraged by a  generation who can't be responsible or accountable  for their own actions.  One more adult responsiblity given over to tapping a screen.

  26. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 4, 2016 at 12:47 p.m.

    Was just referring to technology in general, Mark, as pretty much everyone has experienced. Dodging objects, even those that move, is not as complex as it sounds. The issue is more the unintended consequences, susch as those you describe. If this was easy, it would already be here.

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