Alfa Romeo believes that autonomous cars will become an industry norm, but that ultimately these systems will never fully take away the enjoyment of driving a car manually.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the Frankfurt motorshow last week, the CEO of Alfa Romeo and Maserati, Harald Wester, said autonomous driving technology would soon be a regular feature across a variety of cars.
“It’s something that will be an intrinsic part of the automotive industry in the future, it would be like ABS or ESP,” Wester told CarAdvice.
The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group has to an extent been lagging in autonomous drive vehicle development compared to the likes of segment leaders Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Nonetheless, signs are positive that the technology is in rapid development.
“I believe that this will have positive effects on the industry in terms of… it will make driving in certain situations less annoying, it will improve your quality of life because you’re not going to waste all the time by just activating two pedals, the steering wheel and the shifter. Because in mega cities in stop and go situations, when there is a traffic jam, its not really fun to drive. It’s a mess, it’s a burden.”
In regards to Alfa Romeo, which prides itself on providing a performance-orientated package with emotionally evocative driving characteristics, Wester believes autonomous driving technology is still relevant.
“Yes, imagine you have a Giulia QV, and you really like to drive and you can go on the highway and doing whatsoever, but on a Monday morning in one of these ugly traffic jams, I think you want to lean back and write a message or read a newspaper and let the car do the job. It doesn’t take anything away from [driving experience].”
Ultimately though, there will not be an Alfa Romeo in the medium or even long term future that will do away with the steering wheel, even if the regulations allow it.
“This is not going to substitute driving, this is not going to substitute manual driving. I hope and I believe that at the end o the day even if we go to systems that will be fully automatic, at least capable, the most important part of this system, will always be the on/off button.”
Alfa Romeo will launch the Giulia range in Australia towards the end of next year.