Concept cars are supposed to be fun and interesting. When they’re serious, they’re near-production cars that show us what to expect in dealer showrooms before long. Or they can be trial balloons to test public reactions to new styling ideas or technological innovations. The bulk of them are just there to be cool. Something flashy with a wow factor to get people to the corporate show stand so you can get them interested in the latest minivans.
Wheel of Fortune
And some concept cars are really fun. These are the cars powered by a 20-foot diameter gyroscope or have huge fins on the front of the car or feature flat screen TVs as taillights. And now Jaguar has done everyone who has ever made a goofy show car powered by steam, hydrogen, and Jerry Garcia solos one better. Jaguar just debuted a show car that isn’t a car at all.
Jag calls their new concept “car” the Future-Type, but, and here’s where the first of many, many problems arise, the Future-Type isn’t a car at all. It’s just a steering wheel. Yes, it’s a high tech steering wheel that sort of looks like a cross between a smartphone and a headlight bezel from a 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Still, that’s ALL the Jaguar Future-Type concept is: A friggin’ steering wheel.
Jag’s Larry Lightbulb idea here is that, in the future, you’ll never actually own a personal car again. Wait, wait! Stay with me here. Put down those torches and pitchforks. Jag thinks all future vehicles will be premium, compact on-demand cars. The Jaguar Future-Type is just such a car. It would be a fully autonomous ride where, if you were a Jaguar customer, you could call forth a fully-charged Future-Type on demand. Jaguar says the Future-Type is a glimpse into the world of autonomous, connected, electrified, and shared mobility.
Say My Name
And, to make matters worse, the Jaguar Future-Type steering wheel/concept/shared car of the future comes with a voice interfaced personal assistant called Sayer. Yes, they named it after Malcolm Sayer, the fellow who designed the E-Type, but you just know the nobs in marketing where patting themselves on the back when they realized the designer’s name also had the nifty connotation of “tell it what to do.”
Jag says this steering wheel lives with you, say in your home or perched on your office desk. They also say it “becomes your trusted companion,” which made me cough up my morning Mountain Dew a little. The Coventry boffins go on, saying the Jaguar Future-Type is the first voice-activated Artificial Intelligence (AI) steering wheel. And, well, ya got me there. Can’t argue with that, can I?
The Jaguar Future-Type/wheel + Sayer can summon your car, play music, book you a table, and even knows what’s in your fridge. They say this without a hint of irony, self-awareness or cognizance of how this could all go wrong. Overall, Jag says it would work like this: Say you need to be at a meeting that’s two hours from your home by 8am tomorrow morning. Simply ask Sayer, from the comfort of your chic und moderne living room, and Sayer will work out when to get you up, and when “your” car needs to autonomously arrive at your door. Sayer can even figure out which parts of the journey you might enjoy driving yourself and make that suggestion to you.
Then again, if Sayer really knew me and my wants and needs and desires, Sayer would automatically call up Steve from accounting, berate him in Slovenian, and point out to him that there’s no way I’d be getting up and on the road that early for a meeting, and to reschedule it for a more decent hour.
Like never O’clock.
See what a bright and shiny future Jaguar has in store for us! No need to worry yourself about Sayer locking you out of your smart home while you scream “open the pod-bay doors Hal!!” in a horrendous rain storm, only to resort to crawling down the chimney so you can lobotomize Sayer into singing “Daisy” on the way out. That would never, ever happen. Nope.
“Future-Type offers an insight into the potential for driving and car ownership in the future. In a future age of on-demand services and car sharing, our research shows there will still be a place for luxury and premium experiences – and enjoying the drive,” said Ian Callum, Director of Design for Jaguar. “Whether it’s commuting to work, autonomously collecting children from school or enjoying driving yourself on the weekend in the countryside.”
For The Birds
It’s like these Jabronis have never even seen a hack James Cameron movie or something. So, for some reason, Jaguar thinks it’s a good idea for my car, er, steering wheel to know what’s in my refrigerator? My steering wheel with my Jarvis/HAL/Sayer digital assistant/servant is going to magically play some Kenny G for me whether I ask for it or not? And, seriously, who would ask for Kenny G? If you do, I think Sayer should immediately lock all the doors on “your” Jaguar and take you straight to the nearest psych ward.
Thanks Jaguar, but, no, I don’t think so. There are, like many concepts before it, some intriguing ideas with the Future-Type. But overall, it should be put right next to that 1948 five-wheeled DeSoto with the matching aetheric-generator powered briefcase. Now, if this were my idyllic future, this would be where I would say cheerio, hop in my Lotus 7 and drive, spiritedly, down to the pub for a pint and some conversation with the chaps about racing. Cheers then.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.