Keith’s Blog: Bob Lutz Says Driving a Car is on the Way Out

I’ve known Bob Lutz (“Maximum Bob”) for more than 20 years. I served on his long-range planning committee when he was at General Motors.

I’ve also been on several new car launches and several classic car events with him.

His motto: “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”

That approach is evident in his article about the “Death of the Individual Motor Car” which was published in Automotive News.

While I disagree with his overall conclusions, there is much that is right about what he is saying.

Our urban areas are congested, and there is no relief in sight. We will not build any more freeways. Mass transit systems like light rail and streetcars are expensive and take a long time to build.

The immediate solution is car-hiring systems such as Uber and Lyft. I live in downtown Portland, OR, and I find myself using Uber three or four times a week when I have to run errands.

I don’t believe it will be a huge transition from using an Uber driver to having a driverless car. In fact, the most important point Lutz makes is that fleet vehicles, like those for UPS, FedEx and Amazon, will lead the way.

The autonomous car will solve the problem of urban congestion. Think about it — once you get more than 30 miles from most urban centers, the freeways are relatively uncluttered. It’s in the city centers where there is gridlock and parking issues.

As far as taking our old cars to areas where we can exercise them, — as we would if they were horses — we are already doing that. As fewer and fewer old cars are used for daily transportation, there are more and more tours being created to exercise them. The Colorado Grand, the Copperstate 1000 and our own SCM 30th Anniversary Tour next summer are perfect examples.

Just as bicycle events are held on back roads, more and more back-road car events will give us a time and a place to use our cars.

Lutz’s vision of strings of self-driving cars moving at 150 mph on the freeway is something we may never see. But urban areas where Google cars outnumber manually driven ones may only be a decade away.

But will collectors really notice the change? I doubt it, unless there is legislation that forbids the use of old cars, similar to what is happening in European cities now.

The autonomous cars are coming. I welcome them. If I never again have to drive during rush hour through the heart of a city that will be just fine with me.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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  1. I largely agree with Keith’s sentiment but differ on one key point. Part of what makes vintage car ownership enjoyable is the serendipitous adventures (and misadventures) we encounter in their daily use. Consider the emotional tension of a mechanical break down and roadside repair. The nighttime thunderstorm dash in a British roadster with leaky top. Trying to fit unexpected cargo inside a tiny trunk. Etc. I suspect there are several owners in the vintage auto community who remember with fondness living with that particular MG or Triumph in college that conjure memories of the excitement of youth. It was the daily ownership experience that likely created that initial yearn to own a vintage auto in the first place. There is only so much of that experience that can be re-lived by participating in the occasional concourse or vintage rally.