Vintage Ad Outtake: 1977 BMW 320i Ad – A Quaint Memory As We Succumb To Autonomous Vehicles


Last week Tesla announced that all of their vehicles will be ready for full autonomous driving just as soon as government approval is secured.  All that will be required is a hefty payment to Tesla for an over-the-air software download.  Imagine, you’ll never have to drive again!  What could be better?!?!  Thankfully, we have come so far so fast, and nothing could possibly go wrong with Elon’s nirvana.  But to make sure you never forget the dark days of dangerous human driving, I bring you a dastardly print ad from 1977 that had the audacity to suggest that humans could be safe and effective behind the wheel.


Imagine the rubes of 1977 thinking that they could be the master of a machine, engaging with it to extract the maximum performance and driving pleasure.  Though it seems unthinkable today, there was a time when people thought it was highly desirable to have a nimble, efficient BMW that required you to shift gears manually, feel the road through the steering wheel and even know when to operate the brakes by yourself.  But look back with pity: in those forsaken times of the late 20th Century, these poor unenlightened souls hadn’t yet experienced the joys of Snapchat or the dizzying array of comical cat videos on YouTube.  They didn’t yet understand how much driving would distract from their screen time.


Nor did those Seventies Luddites fathom what the future of automobiles would look like.  Why on earth would you want to own a BMW 3 Series when you could be transported in this instead?


Thankfully, now BMW has finally gotten with the program.  For the new 2017 7 Series, the emphasis is quite rightly on technology, passive safety and luxury (pronounced “luggzhury” in their TV ads).  In the 21st Century, to market something as the “Ultimate Driving Machine” would be utterly foolish.  The outdated relic of a name, Bavarian Motor Works, can soon be rechristened “Battery-operated Mobility-modules with Web-connectivity” to properly connote the modern age of transportation pods brimming with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence that exists solely to make sure we are comfortable, entertained and protected from ourselves.


Even for folks who don’t want to spring for the cost of a BMW luxury cocoon, there will be a wonderful answer in the not-too-distant future.  Benign technology conglomerates, altruistic major marketers and the government can mandate vehicles that will algorithmically optimize exactly where we need to go, and safely get us there (except for the occasional catastrophic software glitch or unanticipated malicious hack), while conveniently ensuring that our eWallets are being automatically debited to cover the cost of all the “value-added services” we are enjoying.  As all this high-tech kindness and care is bestowed upon us and we are transported about, our eyes will never have to be off a screen for more than a few seconds.  The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

Happy motoring!