Driverless Cars


Driverless Cars

They seem to be next on the horizon. Google is developing the concept, along with many auto companies. Read all about it here. There are many benefits — cars are only drives about 4% of the time, parked the rest. With driverless cars, they can be multi tasked. After dropping you off at work, they can return home and pick up the rest of the family, or shared and used like taxis. They are supposedly safer (after all, there is no driver to pick up a cell call or yell at a kid in the back seat.) There would be no issues with having a designated driver on New Year’s Eve. It just seems perfect.

Yeah, well, OK.  But I like to drive. I like the feel of the road, the knowledge that I was able to navigate across the country with the help of a couple of maps and a compass. There is something about driving that gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  I’m not sure I want to give that up to a machine.

Too much of our lives is being taken by machines. I noticed the other day that I had owned my car for seven years and had never opened the hood. There was no reason. There was virtually nothing under there I could adjust or fix. Garages did that, I didn’t. When I was a kid my Dad and I took apart an engine, cleaned it, and put it back together in a Model A. The feeling we had when that car started was indescribable.

When I learned to fly, I had a couple of instruments — a compass and an artificial horizon. I had a chart, computed my course, and took off. Today myu buddy Clyde keys in a GPS coordinate, pushes a button and sits back — the plane flies itself. Some software engineer somewhere is flying the plane. Now they want to do that with my car.

When I’m sailing, I sail. No engine, just the water, the boat, the wind and me. If the wind is blowing the wrong way, I have to figure out how to get where I’m going anyway. And when I do, I have accomplished something.

When I arrive in my car, I can think back on the trip and realize that I did it.  OK, no big deal that I drove seven miles through city traffic, stopping and turning as required by my trip. But I did it. Not Google, or some Boeing scientist who designed a GPS satellite.

Are we loosing skills that we may never recover.  Its getting cold here and we have a fire many nights. I use ‘firestarters,’ basically solid napalm, to get the wood going. We were out last evening and I had to actually crumple up some paper, put on small kindling, get it going, and then add larger wood. You know R commented that it was the best fire we had had in ages. There is a sense of pride you get when you do something like that. Its a little thing, but we have so few any more.

That’s the kind of pride you get when you drive home through busy traffic, or navigate around the harbor in your boat and get back safely. If we have driverless cars, how will we ever have that feeling.

That’s the fun part of being human. Do we really want it to go away?


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Perhaps we should abandon all of our pay stations and replace them with cashiers. Even better, let’s get rid of ATM’s and bring back tellers. And, think, this would help reduce unemployment!!

  2. John John, John…I’m just saying that I like to be able to have the choice of doing some things for myself and keeping skills that my father had and I had when I was a kid. I hate to stand in lines in banks and ditto pay stations. Some people don’t like to drive — put em in driverless cars, but don’t make me.

  3. I am with you John. I want to automate ever thing I can so that I have more time to drive around all of the cities I get to visit in the interesting new cars Mr. Hertz gives me and to enjoy flying. I do miss the sense of accomplishment of navigating, taking off from Houston and using my skill to arrive right on schedule in Chicago. Now I turn the autopilot off right before I hit the ground. The sense of accomplishment comes in not hitting the ground to hard.

    On a Southwest flight with WiFi, see you at lunch.

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