If there’s one major topic in 2017 that has thrusted the automotive world into mainstream everyday headlines, it has been autonomous vehicles. The idea that people can finally let go of the wheel to stare at their phones (like they do every other waking hour), while the car does all of the driving itself, is a seductive one. It could completely change the business model of an automaker. Major cities are excited. It has Silicon Valley in a frenzy. Big Data is salivating. Buzz words like “safety,” “sharing economy,” “mobility,” and “disruptor,” are seeing maximum usage.
“At the opposite end,” Juechter quickly replied, during the 2017 LA Auto Show. “GM is doing both. We’re obviously big into autonomous. It’s going to be the mass transit of the future in urban centers all around the world. But, we’re lucky enough to be part of a company with a portfolio of vehicles for every different purpose. We’ve got the Bolt EV in Chevy’s lineup, and we’ve got the Corvette ZR1.”
The Chevrolet Bolt EV has been the guinea pig for all of GM’s autonomous ventures that have so far been announced, and autonomous vehicle pursuits has been trendy for both the technology and automotive industries for all of 2017. While driverless cars are a trending topic, there is no shortage of doubts to the legitimacy and viability of autonomous vehicles. Yet the General Motors brass currently appears hellbent at making it work, and being a leader in the space.
That said, GM does continue to see a business case for humans driving vehicles at their own discretion, to wherever they want, whenever they want. Especially for the foreseeable future.
“The whole purpose of the Corvette is to enjoy driving it,” said Juechter. “So, (Corvette) will probably be the last to adopt the autonomous technologies. In fact, we don’t even have adaptive cruise on the car… we try to lean down the content to just what’s necessary for driving, and we expect the person driving it to want to drive it. So between that, and adding all of the additional content (for adaptive cruise)… it requires the sensors to be in front end, which can block airflow. We don’t have a lot of spare airflow, so all of these choices come down to a balance of attributes across the whole car.”
While the architecture of the 2019 Corvette ZR1 may not allow for an adaptive cruise system, let alone something farther down the spectrum of human driving omission, the Corvette program could still have a future role to play in utilizing some autonomous hardware.
“There could someday be use for some of these autonomous features. One of my favorite is a ‘track learn’… a setting where you could dial an assistance, like a driving instructor in the passenger seat,” Juechter continued. “If you’re driving off the line, they’ll reach over to the wheel and tug you back… I can imagine using some of these features as a track learn. Everything from giving you a nudge when you’re not in the right place, to a hands-off, show-me-the-line as fast as the car will go. And you just ride and watch… and slowly take off the training wheels… I can imagine an adaptation of that kind of technology.”
To summarize, Jeuchter appears to theorize that autonomous hardware/software that is smart enough to quickly navigate around a race track could make for even better human skills, via a type of adjustable human-machine high performance driving education system. Where eventually, the human driver wouldn’t need the adjustments of the machine to enjoy their Corvette at its maximum limit.
“But we’re not going to be first to market in that.”
Stay tuned to GMAuthority for the latest in Corvette news, Chevrolet performance updates, and even the latest from GM’s autonomous vehicle adventures.