Autonomous versus Manual Driving

Written by Darren Rayborn

On July 9, 2017
It’s kind of funny, I keep seeing articles on how autonomous driving as the way of the future. It is supposed to help reduce accidents, fatigue, anxiety and more. It is the wonder drug of the car world. Couple this with available Internet connection and this must be the utopia of the transportation world.
As you might be able to discern from this first paragraph, I am not a fan. I will say there are probably a few good reasons for this technology; getting a lone driver to the emergency room, reduce distracted driving, those caught up texting instead of paying attention and of course others listed above. Perhaps if this technology was around when I was growing up, my dad COULD reach me in the back seat and not worry about running off of the road, so glad it wasn’t.
I am sure you have seen this as well, folks driving down the interstate at 80 miles per hour and paying attention to their cell phone, taking selfies, texting more than they look out the window and more. Lanes, what lanes? There is no age or occupation of a person that is immune to this trend. You merely have to be the driver. Have you passed a police officer or deputy because they are going too slow, look over and see they are texting just like you would imagine a teenager?
There is such a craving to do multi-tasking in today’s world, so maybe this is a good idea for some folks. Allow the car to deliver you do work, school, grandma’s house or wherever. Just plug in the address to the GPS and engage. From the beginning of a trip, one can get on their computer or phone and play games or write their school report; perhaps catching up on sleep would be a good idea. How about eating or reading a book? Maybe you could do a conference call with your business partners or clients? There are a myriad of reasons this could work for some, perhaps many people.
Have you also seen that some manufacturers have let out to the public that you could order groceries, send your autonomous car to the store, a clerk loads your purchase and then drives home, safely? Another great option is having your car take grandma to the doctor and you don’t have to miss work or the beach to do so. I am still not sure of all of this technology.
Now, let me balance this out a bit. I love my computer, I love my car, and I love driving. I am an avowed Apple snob. I have been one since 2006 when my son was born. I have built websites, have a little bit of a presence on social media and of course have written papers for university. Regarding a car, I currently have a Buick LaCrosse, which is a comfortable and fun car to drive. It has all of the accouterments that I never knew I could have; heated and cooled seats, great sounds system and the requisite air conditioning. I have had a variety of cars and trucks over the years and God willing, I plan on having some more fun cars later.
In reality, my Apple items don’t always work. I know, blasphemy! Something is bound to go wrong, the battery dies or stops working for some reason. As the main characters on “The IT Crowd would say, “Did you turn it off and on again?” Perhaps it is just a hiccup, an error or needs an update. It is still a computer.
My Buick, which I adore, is still a machine (just don’t tell it I said that please). It has components that need replacing or fixing at times, an oil change due on a scheduled timeframe, and as any living creature, has a lifespan of use. There are things I cannot control like running over a nail on the road and blowing out the tire, hitting a deer on the highway or maybe the Freon is finally runs out in the A/C system. But, I try to trust it as it does carry my family, friends, as well as myself.
As far as driving, I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles on my 16th birthday, the first legal day I could drive. I have been driving for several decades now and believe I excel at it, pun intended. Yes, it is a way to go from point A to point B. Why not have fun during those hours of wheeled travel? It is an escape from reality. It calms me, usually. At times, I like the radio blasting as loud as it can go (way over 11 for you “Spinal Tap fans). Other times, I like to hear the road and what I can of the engine, depending on the car. The feel of the road through the right and healthy tires, the hydraulic guidance from the tires and road through the steering wheel. If you are lucky enough to have a manual transmission, the control of the engine, transmission, torque and speed as you move through turns and hills. You feel as one with the car.
What does this boil down to? It is an opinion. There are benefits for an autonomous car as I mentioned above. For some, perhaps more than average per the media, this would be a great benefit. After seeing and even riding with some people who probably should not be driving, maybe this is their answer. Does this mean it is safer for those that enjoy manual driving with those that share the road in an autonomous vehicle? I suppose that will remain to be seen. I would like to say yes. As an example, I am more optimistic overall that an impaired driver would allow its horse, I mean car, to find its way home.
Personally, as long as I am able to drive, I believe I would prefer commanding the car to do as it was built to do. To push it to the limits sometimes, to enjoy what it was created for. If motivated enough, maybe enhance the car to do what I want it to do; autocross, drag racing, or even see how great I can make it perform to pull out of it what the makers never imagined. One can hope.
What are your thoughts?
Darren
Darren@CarStorian.com
www.CarStorian.com

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