Is your car ugly?
I don’t mean whether it possibly has a smattering of unsightly dents or dings, nor whether the paint is chipped and faded.
I’m talking about to the core and down to the bone ugliness.
So ugly that when the car is driven down the street, children get startled and dogs bark incessantly at the vehicle.
So ugly that the car would win hands-down a best (or is it worst?) ugliness contest for cars.
Are you bummed out if your car model is splashed onto headlines as being one of the ugliest cars on the roadways?
Some car owners are overtly proud of the fact that their brand of chosen car is oftentimes listed as one of the ugliest cars ever made.
Perhaps it’s an innate contrarian spirit that causes those car owners to intentionally go against the grain of society.
Having an ugly car can be a badge of courage and independence for some. Let the rest of the world groan and whine about the ugliness, while it just reinforces that their chosen brand of car is truthfully a beauteous thing (in the mind of the contrarian).
Honestly, most people tend to scratch their heads when an annual “ugliest car” list is issued for each year’s new car models, being puzzled and bewildered as a result of (rightfully, they believe) questioning the veracity of such lists, to begin with.
Some are genuinely skeptical about who gets to make these lists.
Those presumed “authorities” appear to be haughty, and wield their authority high-and-mighty, proclaiming one brand to be ugly and another brand to be alluring and eye-catching, as though a divine spirit has given them great and kingly powers.
Admittedly, some list creators do use surveys to garner public sentiment, along with using sales figures as a surrogate of car-looks impacts, rather than making their own idiosyncratic judgments alone.
If you are curious about which cars have made it onto these glorious lists, here are some examples.
Auto Trader has posted this list of the Top 5 ugliest cars ever:
1. Fiat Multipla
2. VW Type 181
3. Nissan Cube
4. Cadillac Seville
5. Sbarro Autobau (concept)
6. Chrysler PT Cruiser
For clarification, I’ve listed the top six due to the aspect that one of those was a concept car (the Sbarro Autobau), which seems to somewhat inappropriately fit into the realm of real-world everyday on-the-road ugliest cars (you could endlessly rate the zillions of concept cars that have ever been proposed), and so I’ve opted to include the sixth pole position since it is a car that you could potentially see on the streets.
Speaking of being on the street, some of the cars on the ugliest lists are ones that you’ve perhaps never had a chance to observe on the highways and byways near you, naturally so, because the number of cars sold for some of these ugliest badged “winners” were not good sellers.
We ought to take a look at other ugliest car lists too, providing a broader perspective on what might have landed on the worst of the worst.
Per Edmunds, here’s their list:
1. Lamborghini Veneno
2. Lincoln Versailles
3. Acura ZDX
4. Cadillac Deville
5. Pontiac Aztek
6. Fiat Multipla
Once again, I’ve listed the top six, though this time I did so to showcase that the Fiat Multipla managed to find its way onto this list and also made it onto the Auto Trader list too (as did the Cadillac Deville), and thus potentially the ugliness is being perceived by more than one authoritative rater at a time.
Some take the aspect of the same cars being on these lists to suggest that those crafting the ugliest cars lists are lemmings and merely fall in line with each other. Of course, one can counter-argue that ugly is ugly, and therefore we’d expect the same or similar set of ugly cars to make these lists.
Another list, not rank-ordered, offers its own set of the ugliest cars and notably one of those on the list might get some of you into a fevered tizzy fit:
· Pontiac Aztek
· Nissan Cube
· Pontiac Trans Sport
· Ford Edsel
· Tesla Cybertruck
Take another look at the list and you’ll realize that the newest creation from Elon Musk got onto the list, the Tesla Cybertruck (see my coverage of the big reveal at this link).
For those of you that are Tesla devotees, I’m sure that you immediately recoiled at the inclusion of the recently unveiled Tesla Cybertruck as having made the list of ugliest looking cars.
On the other hand, returning to the earlier point about being contrarians, there are likely plenty of Tesla lovers that relish the Cybertruck making the ugliest cars list.
They undoubtedly figure might as well let the rest of the Tesla “haters” delude themselves into believing as such (i.e., falsely believing that the Cybertruck is ugly, full-on and unadulterated ugly), meanwhile once the Cybertruck is available for pick-up it will take the world by storm, they so believe.
Is there any science involved in ascertaining which cars are ugly?
Sure, some would assert that the curves of the car, the overall body shape, the streamlined versus tossed together look, these are all hard-and-fast measures to decide whether a vehicle should be classified as ugly or not.
Others eschew this as fake science that is desperately trying to make something tangible and quantitative that is otherwise quite wholly subjective, and purely opinion-based.
Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder?
Equally, is ugliness only in the eye of the beholder?
Some have striven to put an unflinchingly hard-core metric or set of measures together to make this into an unwavering and universally acceptable means of deciding which cars are ugly and even how much ugliness they imbue.
Balderdash, others say, and point out that it all depends upon your cultural immersion and societal predisposition as to what constitutes ugly versus not ugly.
Here’s an interesting question to ponder: Will AI-based true self-driving cars eventually make their way onto the ugliest car lists, and if so, does it matter?
Bet you hadn’t thought about that.
We’ll gradually see the emergence of true self-driving cars onto our streets and freeways, driving among us, and become prevalent as an everyday mode of transport.
When that happens, are they susceptible to getting ranked as an ugly car?
Will it make a difference if they do get onto such a “vaunted” list?
Let’s unpack the matter and see.
The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars
It is important to clarify what I mean when referring to AI-based true self-driving cars.
True self-driving cars are ones that the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.
These driverless vehicles are considered a Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-on’s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).
There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.
Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some point out).
Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different than driving conventional vehicles, so there’s not much new per se to cover about them on this topic (though, as you’ll see in a moment, the points next made are generally applicable).
For semi-autonomous cars, it is important that the public be forewarned about a disturbing aspect that’s been arising lately, namely that in spite of those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.
You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3.
Self-Driving Cars And Ugly Lists
For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task.
All occupants will be passengers.
The AI is doing the driving.
Pundits suggest that by-and-large the use of driverless cars will be for ride-sharing purposes (see my analysis of this point see this link).
It is assumed that a new era of mobility will arise, allowing a mobility-for-all advent. Those today that are mobility hampered or disadvantaged will finally be able to readily and inexpensively have access to car transportation.
A boon for society.
If that’s going to be the case, ask yourself a pointed question.
Do you care what a ride-sharing car that is giving you a lift looks like?
In other words, a ride-sharing car, regardless of human-driven or AI-driven, comes to pick you up, and once it arrives, most would say that the looks of the vehicle make no difference as to whether or not you are willing to take the ride.
All you care about is that the car is operable, in good enough condition to reliably provide transport, and will safely make its way to your destination.
Have you ever decided to not get into a ride-sharing car simply based on whether it is blue or red or orange in color, or maybe due to the overall shape of the car?
To be clear, if the car looks to be in bad condition and has been through the wringer, I think we’d all be suspect about how the driver is taking care of the vehicle, and rightfully avoid taking the car on any ride-sharing journey unless absolutely desperate for a ride.
On looks alone, if a particular brand of car is considered by list-makers as looking ugly, would that change your willingness to go for a ride when requesting a rise-sharing lift?
Most probably not.
The point being that if driverless cars are not going to be owned by individuals (which, I claim is a misleading and somewhat false assertion, see my analysis at this link), and exist in fleets of ride-sharing vehicles, the looks of the car are no longer pertinent.
Presumably, the reason that ugliness makes a difference today is due to whether consumers buying cars want to have the stigma or not of owning and driving around in a so-called ugly car.
Take away the consumer ownership part of the equation, and ugliness falls by the wayside.
Period, end of story.
Why wouldn’t it fall by the wayside?
One theory is that people are going to intrinsically feel good or bad about themselves as a result of the looks of a car that they are riding in, even despite not owning the car per se.
Place yourself into the future, when there are nearly only and all driverless cars, while conventional human-driven cars are as scarce as hen’s teeth.
You are going to go on a first date and want to impress the other person.
Using your smartphone, you request a ride-sharing vehicle to come and get you and will have it to take you to your date’s place, and then the driverless car will take you two to the movies.
Do you care about the looks of the self-driving car?
It seems quite possible.
You want to impress your date, so you avoid taking one of those “ugly” cars and instead make sure to request a car that is known for being beauteous.
Here’s another reason that looks might make a difference.
If you agree that self-driving cars will be predominantly a part of large fleets, the odds are that the fleet owner would want to get pretty much the same brand and model for their fleet, leveraging sensibly any potential economies of scale (the fleet owner could more readily perform maintenance and care on one selected brand or model, versus dealing with a multitude of brands and models).
I’ve previously pointed out that we are possibly heading toward a world wherein you can’t tell one self-driving car from another (see the link here).
What I mean is that if fleets have thousands upon thousands of the same brand and model of a driverless car, you’ll see that particular brand and model all the time, and not be able to readily discern one driverless from another.
When a driverless car comes to pick you up, there is likely to be a lot less variety of models and brands of cars, thus, you’ll statistically see the same brand or model each time.
Eventually, this might pressure fleet owners to differentiate themselves from other driverless car fleets, and thus they might opt to buy their next brand and model based on how the car looks.
Thus, once again, the notion of being an ugly car comes back around and might be a strategic differentiator for why people choose a particular driverless car fleet ride-sharing service (wherein people believe that driverless cars X are less or more alluring to ride in than driverless cars Y, simply by looks alone).
Now, keep in mind, the aforementioned refers to a somewhat far away future.
For now, it is going to take years upon years for self-driving cars to come into the marketplace, likely many decades.
Shifting then our attention to contemporary times, let’s further consider the ugliness factor.
Today’s Self-Driving Cars And Ugliness
Self-driving cars tend to have a rooftop rack of sensors, including cameras, radar, LIDAR, and other such sensory devices.
You’ve most certainly have seen videos or pictures of driverless cars, or perhaps encountered ones that have happened to be on the roadways near you.
In the earlier days of driverless car dreams, the thought was that a self-driving car would be a new kind of car, being completely redesigned from the ground up. Though this is indeed taking place, and many are stridently heading in that direction, the more expedient method to getting up-to-speed involves taking a conventional car and retrofitting it to have driverless tech.
When you see a conventional car that has been augmented with self-driving tech, what do you think about it?
Does the rooftop of all those gadgets and gizmos make the car look ugly?
The odds are that there are also additional gadgets and gizmos mounted on the sides and both ends of the vehicle.
I suppose that some people might think they’ve just seen a Frankenstein car going down the street.
Driverless cars might today be perceived as having a bunch of electronics jammed onto them, appearing to be a jumble of rotating this and hanging out that.
I’d bet that most people are fascinated to see such a car and aren’t immediately leaping to a judgment that the driverless car looks ugly.
It looks like, well, the future.
The newness factor tends to downplay the looks and instead grab our interest out of curiosity and amazement.
Okay, once those driverless cars are in droves, and we see them each and every day, and we drive near to them in traffic, and we get used to them as being “fellow” drivers, it could be that we no longer view those cars as extraordinary.
In that case, maybe the looks come back into play again.
Speaking of being a contrarian, it’s my position that we aren’t going to have only a handful of fleet owners that command all self-driving cars.
Individual ownership of self-driving cars is still a possibility, and I argue that it is likely, partially due to the aspect that each of us will have an opportunity to make money from owning a driverless car. Right now, we own cars that sit and do nothing for 95% of the time, a costly asset that is woefully underutilized.
By owning a self-driving car, you could use it to get to work, and then the rest of the workday it is providing ride-sharing, bringing in the bucks for you, making it into a money-making asset rather than today’s (essentially) money-losing asset.
For more on the rationale involved, see this link.
Would looks matter when we still have individual ownership of cars, in this case, self-driving cars?
Humans seem to care about looks, which crops up in most things that we do or own.
The idea that we’ll dispense with rating the looks of anything, including self-driving cars, would seemingly go against the very nature of human behavior.
We are all pre-programmed to judge a book by its cover, and no matter how hard we try to suppress that innate urge, it inevitably and inextricably re-emerges.
Time will tell, and that’s the ugly truth on the matter.