America used to be the land of innovation, where progress was limited only by the imagination of engineers. Then corporate attorneys got involved, and most innovation was stamped out by the fear of product liability lawsuits. Technical challenges aside, there’s a reason we’re not all piloting flying cars from mainstream automakers.
That spirit of invention is apparently alive and well in other parts of the world, where fears of multi-million-dollar litigation are non-existent. Take the latest innovation from China’s BYD, for example: at next week’s Beijing Auto Show, the Chinese automaker will debut the F3 Plus, featuring remote-control driving.
Yes, we did say “remote-control driving,” just like that of James Bond’s BMW 750iL, featured in Tomorrow Never Dies. BYD calls its remote control technology “world-leading,” and we won’t argue with that. It’s not that other automakers couldn’t produce such an innovation, it’s just that no other corporate legal department would sign off on it.
BYD’s remote control system uses a special vehicle key to start the car, move it forward or backward, turn it left or right and travel at a “restricted speed.” The company bills the technology as “a perfect solution when the parking space is not wide enough for the driver to exit the car once parked.”
BYD paints an idealistic picture of the car’s capability, too, telling consumers that its F3 Plus can be driven remotely to curbside to keep driver and passengers out of the elements. We've seen enough people struggle with driving scale model remote-control cars not to think this ends tragically.
Even at low speeds, there’s plenty of opportunity to hit other cars, pedestrians, curbs or run down your neighbors prized geraniums. If motorists can’t distinguish between gas and brake from the driver’s seat, does BYD really think they can control a car with their thumbs?
Still, we salute BYD for being this bold, and we’ll admit that the new F3 Plus makes us nostalgic for a time when cars were controlled by the driver, and not by electro-nannies mandated by the legal department.