It's pretty rare to see a feature on a car that's genuinely new. Cars are so advanced now, most of the low-hanging novelty fruit has been picked, and much of what we get are advances of things we already know. Like adaptive cruise control, for example. So when a company comes out with something truly new, it's a big deal.
Looks like oft-maligned BYD has done just that.
Their new car, the BYD Sui Rui, can be remotely driven from outside the car, like a giant R/C car. That's a new one.
The car itself isn't particularly exiting. It's a sedan that manages to occupy that sweet spot between derivative and dull, though it looks modern enough. You can pick from two four-cylinder engines, a 109-HP model and a 150-HP turbo. But of course, this is the first car in history to be desirable solely for the key fob. The little remote is a small white oblong that looks like it was designed by Apple about 5 years ago, and has controls for what appear to be lock/unlock, some sort of on/off or maybe stop, and a 4-way joypad. Hold it sideways and it could be a modern-looking NES controller.
The remote will be active within a 30-foot range, and the speed will be limited to about 1.2 MPH. That's a slow walking pace, and while it's probably a smart move to keep it that low, I'd hope some enterprising young hackers will find a way to release that restriction. I can picture a hacked control with a small potentiometer to let you set speed. That, and a big area of the desert could mean an awful lot of irresponsible fun.
The R/C feature could be remarkably useful; BYD shows people terrified of rain driving their car towards them, but I can think of so many more uses. Though, honestly, most of them involve scaring the shit out of friends and evading parking tickets. Still, I'm sure there's useful applications as well.
Here's a video of the system in action, so you can plan your pranks and hacks more effectively.
I'd love to see this come to the US, but our more litigious and safety-focused culture may prevent that. Besides, as a parent it's easy to imagine a scenario where I look up from a laptop to hear strange crunching sounds and screaming, not knowing what the hell's going on until I see my kid holding a white oblong with a joypad on it.
Still, I hope those daydreams don't dissuade them. I hope this comes here. Preferably, licensed to any car other than a BYD.