Do automakers investing billions in the self-driving cars of tomorrow risk repeating the same mistake they made with electric cars a decade ago?
Cutting-edge robotic people-movers from the likes of General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Jaguar Land Rover all share similarly rectangular dimensions with more of an eye toward engineering practicality than sex appeal. Even Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., has chosen the lowly minivan as its primary ride for self-driving vehicles.
The uniform and uninspiring looks of these autonomous vehicles are coming under criticism for being as much of a turn-off as the no-frills approach automakers took to designing EVs that ended up being slower sellers than hoped. One prominent industry observer ruefully noted in a newsletter recently: “We have collectively arrived at ‘bread loaf’ as the dominant design language for AV concepts.”