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This Swedish ad perfectly skewers the hype surrounding self-driving cars

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How do you say ‘burn’ in Swedish?

Car companies are drunk on technology. Everywhere you turn, major automakers are hyping new advances in connected cars, self-driving cars, and app-driven mobility services like ride-sharing and car-sharing. These new technologies will save lives, improve our environment, and be an unabashedly cool way to get around town, these companies claim. But most people are probably a little skeptical about where all this new car tech is leading us.

Enter Västtrafik, a Swedish public transit agency, which just released a new ad that takes the technology fever that’s gripped the automotive world and turns it on its head. The 45-second ad looks like your typical new car commercial, with fast cuts and dramatic music. The text promises the most electric, connected, tricked-out vehicle you could ever imagine, only to reveal at the end that said vehicle is actually a city bus.

The ad is meant to drive home the point that many of the futuristic, lifesaving technologies the car companies have been hyping to consumers already exists in various modes of public transportation, like buses. Electrified propulsion? Check. Freedom from the shackles of driving? Check. The ultimate shared vehicle? Big check.

It also highlights a major weakness in the theory that self-driving cars will be the ultimate panacea for all our transportation woes: that an autonomous vehicle on the road is still just a vehicle on the road, whether it’s driven by a human or a computer algorithm, and that can only do so much to reduce traffic, pollution, and their associated costs.

"We welcome, of course, safer and more environmentally friendly cars,” said Lars Backström, CEO of Västtrafik, in a statement. “However, more people alone in their cars — regardless of whether they're self-driven or not — does not belong to the future. Not having to drive yourself in shared vehicles, on the other hand, definitely does. Something our customers have been enjoying for over a hundred years.”

That raises another excellent point: while most experts predict we won’t start seeing self-driving cars on the road until 2021 (at the earliest) and not in great numbers for decades more, the city bus is operating right now. The ultimate shared vehicle can be ridden as we speak for just a few bucks.

The ad, which was created by Gothenburg-based agency Forsman & Bodenfors, will run in movie theaters in West Sweden, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook, a Västtrafik spokesperson said.