We’re going to need a bigger planet. Ford’s Gaia-gouging vision for self-driving cars

Evidently no one told Ford’s head of autonomous vehicles, John Rich, what not to say in public.

Self-driving cars, remember, are supposed to be safe, clean, less resource-intensive and gentle on Mother Earth.

No such thing, according to Mr Rich:

”The thing that worries me least in this world is decreasing demand for cars. We will exhaust and crush a car every four years in this business,” he told The Daily Telegraph

Tut tut. Send that man off to a media training monastery to brush up his bullshido skills. Of course everyone with an ounce of common sense realises what carmakers really want robocars for. You just don’t say it in so many words. Not even in a newspaper only read by a rapidly-dwindling number of geriatric closet racists and their arthritic Labradors.

Teslarati.com reported:

Rich noted that self-driving vehicles will see consistent use, which in turn will aggravate the wear and tear of a vehicle’s components. With regular use, the Ford executive argued that self-driving cars will be up for retirement in just four years, especially those that are deployed to underserved areas

Robocars that wear themselves out in a frenzy of non-stop 24-7 driving are a carmakers’ wet dream. ‘Underserved areas’ are out-of-the-way places where Ford’s bands of roving AVs can rack up endless miles—many of them passengerless—between pickups.

For Ford, AVs are primarily about preserving and if possible increasing demand for new vehicles—and with that, demand for resources and energy. Well, Ford ignores the problems caused by second two. For them, it’s only about the first.

Reality may have the last laugh. Genuine Level 5 self-driving cars may prove impossible, at least in the sense of being able to operate safely absolutely anywhere.

A whistleblower recently exposed how AV developers are fudging test data to cover up how incapable current cars are at driving safely on their own. Artificial intelligence is still decades away from enabling robocars to self-teach themselves, I heard from an expert with 30 years’ academic and commercial experience in AI.

Self-driven mobility may well end up only operating in major conurbations and along main highway corridors. There, vehicles could be safely supported by external signalling and control equipment. Areas that are ‘underserved’ in Ford’s terms will remain that way.

There’s also the awkward facts of work and sleep, which take up two-thirds of most people’s days. And don’t forget weekends. Ford’s dream of eroding cars 24-7 starts to look more like 8-5. It doesn’t end there. Outside commuting hours, 95% of people aren’t using any form of transport at any given moment. And your market is … where exactly?

The more you look at self-driving cars, the more hubristic they look. A desperate bet made on sketchy assumptions in pursuit of what Mr Rich has candidly admitted are greedy and destructive production targets.