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Visions are fine, but keep reality in mind

General Motors' vision of "Zero crashes. Zero emissions. Zero congestion" is its new guiding star for electrified and autonomous vehicles.

But like a star, it's farther away than it appears, and it isn't the only one in the sky.

Such ideas around electrified and autonomous vehicles have been discussed among automotive inner circles for some time. In fact, GM's "triple-zero" vision may sound familiar to many industry onlookers, including previous attendees of the seminars.

German auto supplier Continental a decade ago launched its "Vision Zero" initiative of "Zero Fatalities. Zero Injuries. Zero Accidents," which the company says remains "very active." In the past, executives have discussed it at the seminars.

In 2016, Volvo also launched its "Vision 2020" initiative, which targets zero vehicle-related deaths or serious injuries in its cars and crossovers by 2020.

GM's "new" vision extends from safety to emissions and congestion. The proclamations are catchy and optimistic, but, in reality, are likely decades away — if they ever come to fruition.

At the seminars on Monday, many officials discussed the future of mobility causing profound changes for the industry, from smart factories and manufacturing to self-driving vehicles.

"Can we really predict the future? Not really. What we can do is have a vision," Mike Bafan, president of Toyota de Mexico, said during a presentation.

But to achieve such visions — particularly zero fatalities — it will take drastic action by companies and regulators. Governments would essentially have to ban all human drivers or any human-driven vehicle without an extremely comprehensive suite of car technologies that haven't yet been released, or are too costly for typical consumers to buy.

And that's not going to happen anytime soon. So while listening to such guiding visions about self-driving vehicles or mobility solutions, let's just keep in mind that these ideas, while great, aren't new or close to coming to pass.

You can reach Michael Wayland at mwayland@crain.com -- Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeWayland

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