Car Guy's Tuesday blog from the L.A. Auto Show


LOS ANGELES – It strikes me, as we're cruising at 30,000- plus feet, that the technology automatically flying this aircraft, and presumably capable of  landing it without human intervention, is about to become woefully unimpressive. 

The L.A. Auto Show kicks off today with the Connected Car Expo. 

Engineers, software designers,  car designers and visionaries of every stripe are spit-balling a not too distant future when our cars will behave much like this multimillion-dollar Boeing 737-900ER. 

Our cars will operate perpetually on auto pilot.  While I doubt there will be someone serving cocktails and wretched food, our trips will be almost as leisurely. 

Some of the topics under discussion inspire the imagination, and shock the sensibilities. 

Connected Car features now

While L.A.'s Connected Car Expo explores the game-changing future of the autonomous car when it arrives in 5-10 years, Ford was unveiling a mainstream vehicle with many semi-autonomous features today.

The new Ford Escape comes with Adaptive Cruise, Lane-Keeping, and Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Alert features.

In short, it will automatically keep you at a safe distance from the vehicles in front and back, warn you if you creep out of your lane, and gently push you back between the lines if you don't respond to the warning. It will also give you a heads-up. if it senses you're drowsy.

Premium options are becoming standard features in many recently introduced mainstream vehicles. Cadillac's new CT6 sedan will feature Super-Cruise-- hands free driving at highway speeds. You can't turn your attention from the road, but all those features significantly reduces driver stress and makes the vehicle significantly more idiot-proof.

Brian Cooley, editor at large for CNET says the "democratization" of premium features will happen at an astonishing rate.


For instance: 

"Going My Way?" 

A deep-dive exploration into the rapid expansion of ride sharing and how it threatens the model of vehicle ownership our state's largest employer relies on.  I think I like the Bing Crosby classic better.

"No Assembly Line Required"

The Future of Car Production - This probes the boundaries of the 3-D printer and how it could replace many of the functions now performed on the assembly line.   If it doesn't strike fear into the hearts of factory dwellers, it should.

"OTA updating" 

This is actually fascinating.  Your car of the future will basically be a computer on wheels.  Most of its functions are driven by software.  That means new functions are merely an upload away.  Your car will not fall out of date as rapidly, because, like your computer, you just plug in an update, and your car is ... up to date.

"The Hack Heard 'Round the World" 

Those puckish scamps from Uber who hacked a Jeep Grand Cherokee and remotely drove it into a ditch will talk about Cybersecurity.  The following discussion will be led by a security expert who, thank God, is billed as "special advisor to the State of Michigan."  At least we've got that going for us, right?

And finally,

The Electronics Invasion: How an automated car will re-invent the vehicle interior. 

Now this IS mind-boggling. Once your attention is no longer needed, when facing forward is not required, when your eyes can roam elsewhere, what do you want to do in your car's interior?

Really? Get your mind out of the gutter. We did that years ago -- it was just a little more hazardous in motion. What do you REALLY want to do when Robo-car takes over and your vehicle interior becomes home to anything other than a racquetball court. Google games will be taking part.

It's an awe-inspiring, mind-bending look at the future. It will bring challenges and unintended consequences these smarties can't begin to comprehend. 

And already one of my colleagues is anticipating it. After explaining the virtues of an autonomous taxi he said, "Great, ISIS can just place the bomb in the taxi and punch in a highly populated destination.  Suicide vests will be so passe'." 

It makes the gabby,  B.O. afflicted dude in the wife beater T-shirt look pretty good, doesn't it? 

My only question:  Why is this happening in Los Angeles?  Why isn't the Connected Car Expo housed at Detroit's Cobo?  If we want to continue to be the World Motor Capital, we need to be the Capital of Connected Cars. Anything less than that and we will be dancing to Silicon Valley's tune.

Watch for my reports from Los Angeles on Local 4 news at 5 and 6.

Listen 12-3P on WJR Wednesday and Thursday as I host the L.A. Auto show special.