By MHH International-A prestige car importer
With the world possibly headed for an autonomous automotive future what about motorists? What happens to the world of driving when the steering wheel is removed?
There are plenty of motorists who love the very act of driving; that feeling of being in control as we twist and turn, legally, along country lanes and major highways. Car makers love to highlight the relationship between car and driver but will that even still exist if the steering wheel is removed?
The Steering Wheel Conundrum
So much of what a car badge stands for is tied up in the relationship between the driver and car. This is especially true of sports cars, hot hatches and the like. How a vehicle reacts to steering inputs is one of the key factors that determines how the owner feels about a car. If a sporty drive is promised, as with some of the prestigious cars we offer for sale, then even the small inputs from the steering will be quickly transmitted to the front wheels, giving the driver that sense of control.
Remove the steering wheel, and the point of a sporting car seems removed entirely. Everything that makes a motor come alive in the hands, like taut suspension or the quick steering, is just not satisfactory when the driving is handed over to a computer. The focus now seems to be on comfort, relaxation and the ability to turn round and play cards with the children. The truth is out there: One of the bosses of the mighty Porsche empire is know to have stated, “The Porsche sports car will be one of the last automobiles with a steering wheel”.
Not Everybody Is At It Though
On the plus side the BMW brand has never shown an autonomous concept car without a steering wheel, even when the concept idea is looking deep into the future. Its Vision iNext SUV, shown earlier this year, featured a wheel that retracted in ‘2Ease’ autonomous mode. Premium car makers seem to favour BMW’s approach, imagining a world where autonomous driving co-exists with traditional methods of control. Let the car deal with humdrum journeys but hand over to the driver when the roads get interesting. This means the car needs a split personality – cosseting and distracting when in autonomous mode; responsive and focused when in manual mode. That we could perhaps live with.
Bentley showed it can be done with its recent EXP 100 GT electric coupé concept. The owner can choose between autonomous and manual mode and the car reacts accordingly. Peugeot explored the same idea with its truly exquisite 2018 E-Legend coupé concept (pictured), described by some as the ‘acceptable face of autonomous driving’.
The styling of the car harks back to elegant, sporty coupés of the 1970s, and, like the Bentley, offers distinct modes for when the owner is being driven or doing the driving themselves. Peugeot seems to understand that driving pleasure isn’t just about pushing the car to its limits, but is also nostalgic for the golden days of motoring.
The Law Requires
The question remains whether people will still be allowed to drive cars if and when the autonomous alternative becomes widespread. The technology is a very long way from being ready to encompass all roads, so that argument is still to come. Certainly, for the technology to take off it would need to be able to deal with conventionally driven cars on the highways, for instance, but what if the time comes and we all know what ‘authorities’ are like, when we will have to be fully autonomous by law to save us from ourselves? Not for a long time yet, thank goodness. Nobody minds technology that mitigates or defends from accidents; that’s all the better: In the end though it is about the freedom of the road.
So driverless cars are still a long way off but cars that are great to drive are right here, right now. Have a browse at our mixed selection of great vehicles and see what you would like to drive