Selling cars will be less important in Citroen’s driverless future

Driverless cars must change the business model for carmakers from simply selling products to providing mobility solutions.

That’s the opinion of Linda Jackson CEO of the French manufacturer, Citroen, who used the traditionally glamourous event of the Geneva Motor Show to discuss the future of autonomous vehicles.

Speaking exclusively to TU-Automotive, Jackson said the carmaker is advancing well with its own autonomous vehicle testing.

She said: “We are testing autonomous cars as we speak, with technology from PSA, in France and it’s with a C4 Picasso that we have tested on the roads between Paris and Bordeaux.

“In terms of where we go, there is a difference between what Google is planning, and some other manufacturers are planning, and our viewpoint which is an autonomous car should be able to take you anywhere you want.

“From my understanding, Google is very much about having chauffer-like autonomous vehicles in distinct areas.

“From what Citroen wants to do it’s about autonomous vehicles in the future, we need to ask specific questions that are government and regulation led as to responsibility and how far that will go.

“This, obviously, leads to lots of questions about insurance, who is responsible and when will the infrastructure be ready. This pushes autonomous cars out much further than 2020, possibly out to 2025-2030 as to have the infrastructure ready.

“In terms of our ability to have the vehicles, yes we can have one ready by 2020. There is also the question over just how receptive will the consumer be?”

In the medium term Jackson acknowledged that the technology delivers a good business case for carmakers as it drip-feeds into the current crop of new vehicles.

“I think there’s almost an evolution towards autonomous cars with those cars today that have drivers’ aids that help and assist you whilst you are driving, for example driving autonomously in traffic jams,” Jackson said.

“Citroen and PSA firmly believe autonomous cars will be a part of the future and the whole process of building a car, and the levels of security required, leads us very much down a route that a manufacturer has to be involved in my opinion.”

Jackson said the demands of a new generation of customers will be the biggest driver towards the adoption of driverless technology. She explained: “Autonomous changes the whole view of cars from buying a car – the tradition of a constructor who sells a car to a customer. From Citroen’s point of view this moves it from simply buying a car to a buying mobility. Even now, when we talk to young people of 18-19 years old, is that first and foremost they want mobility to get from A to B whether or not that involves buying a car.”

However, she admitted that in the long term, the challenges for carmakers will be considerably different than they are currently.

She said: “A lot of manufacturers are now thinking ‘how do we develop the business to provide mobility solutions?’ Hence car sharing for example – in Berlin we have 250 C0 electric cars running around as a car sharing programme.

“This is not just about the autonomous car – that is just a means. This is really all about what the consumer wants in 10-15 years’ time and I think the world will change quite a bit in that time and we have to adapt. This is the big challenge for all manufacturers.”

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