Vice-president says 'Driving yourself will hopefully remain the most important thing' at Porsche.
Porsche will be one of the last car manufacturers to prevent motorists from driving when autonomous cars become common, a company executive has said.
Outlining the Stuttgart-based firm’s plans to remain profitable in future, Lutz Meschke, vice-president of Porsche’s executive board, said Porsches will always be cars ‘that you will want – and be able – to drive yourself’.
‘Driving yourself will hopefully remain the most important thing at Porsche for a very long time,’ he said. ‘The Porsche sports car will be one of the last automobiles with a steering wheel.’
However, Meschke admitted that the autonomous car was coming, and that Porsche was still interested in how it could adapt driverless technology.
‘There are, of course, aspects of autonomous driving that are interesting for us. Traffic jam assistants or automated parking, for example. Imagine you have dinner plans and are running late, and you can let the car park itself automatically. That’s really useful. In traffic jams and when it comes to parking, the functions of automated driving will soon be “must haves”.’
Meschke also said the company was working on track-focused autonomous driving, which would help owners mimic the driving of racing legends such as Mark Webber or Walter Röhrl.
‘Another idea is the Mark Webber-function, as we call it,’ said Meschke. ‘With this function, the vehicle could drive autonomously on a racetrack like the Nürburgring – just like Webber would drive. The car drives an ideal course and demonstrates perfect brakes in the curves, where to best shift and where to accelerate. Of course, you can choose from different race tracks, or from different race drivers – maybe you would rather drive like Walter Röhrl.’
It seems the technology is far closer to production readiness than some might expect.
‘This is technically possible already,’ said Meschke. ‘First, software saves the exact course Mark Webber drives on a racetrack. These data are used by the autonomous vehicle to drive the course identically. Afterwards the customer can reclaim the steering wheel and let the car show him the ideal course, thus training and improving his skills as a driver via direct feedback from the car.’
Meschke confirmed, though, that the autonomous functions available will be different for each model in the manufacturer’s range.
‘There are different stages on the way to fully autonomous driving. Depending on the series, we will offer more or fewer functions.’