#TechThursday – The Future is Underwhelming

  Lindsey Schutters


 27 Jan, 2020

Cruise Origin Electric Autonomous Car

Cruise Origin is the world’s first road ready fully autonomous car and it’s an uninspiring block; and that’s fine, says Lindsey Schutters.

What, were you wanting one of those weird vertical riding Lexus 2054 concepts from Minority Report?

So sorry to disappoint you, but the bits that help the car see its surroundings need clearly defined edges to operate from. Elaborate curves are pretty and all that, but computers are binary until the quantum leap breaks all our laws – and allows cyber criminals easy access to your bank account.

But that’s enough fanning the flames of fear for the future for now. Our present is finally being occupied by self-driving vehicles that have done away with superfluous steering wheels and pedals. GM deserve all the credit it will no doubt get for acquiring Cruise in 2018. It’s important that manufacturers sucking from the government teat invest those social grants wisely.

Hell, even the VW CEO is talking about restructuring the company to go electric first and actually see profits from the luxury brands like Bentley. Pity that whoever takes over from Angela Merkel in 2021 will have to deal with the disgruntled trade unions, but that’s not our concern right now because Uitenhage production is booming.

 An uninspiring slab, but not all is lost

The only real criticism about Cruise Origin is that an airport shuttle aesthetic isn’t a good look if you want to make it onto a kid’s wallpaper. Maybe the marketing team is leaning into the general millennial apathy for things that go vroom. This mass transit idea is actually perfect for Greta Thunberg acolytes; although it seems she prefers boats.

Look, GM pulled out of SA, so this van is still some way off for the average South African. The cheapest route to semi-autonomy on our shores is the Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S ES CVT. For around R450 000 (seriously, that’s the list price) you get a forgettable CVT, but also the EyeSight advanced driver assistance tricks. It’s a stereo camera setup that can judge depth, distance and keep you in your lane. But don’t expect it to work in the times when your eyes don’t, like in heavy fog. Which is odd because the system was developed in Japan – you know, the country that has hourly visibility updates because of the thick fog that plagues it. Be that as it may, it’s a reliable enough system that needed to cut sensor corners to keep costs down.

We’re already living in the sci-fi future of our childhood dreams. It’s just that the futuristic cars we had in mind aren’t practical designs for the computers to work with. The buying public also isn’t flocking to the showroom floors where the glimpses of the future are already on sale because the Vrrpah siren song is far more seductive than sensible family safety.

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