Yesterday I talked about the coming revolution of the automobile. The computer on wheels is getting closer to our driveways and I’m worried that it will take a few generations to accept. I know there’s a strong attachment to people and their cars.
This attachment to our cars began during prohibition. Guys needed souped-up engines to out-run the cops and get the whiskey through the hollers down south. In the 30s, the first street racing started happening, and out on the desert sands, here in California, drag racing started.
The term drag racing has three theories of origin. One is “drag your car out of the garage and race me”. Another comes from holding the transmission in gear longer, or, dragging the gears. The one theory that makes more sense to me is the Main Street in town was often called the “main drag” and that street was usually wide and well-paved and perfect for drag racing. Whatever, that’s the term that stuck for the past 75 years.
Anyway, men became quite attached to the power, speed and custom paint jobs that went along with “customizing” cars. I admit a “55” Chevy still gives me chills. The “57” is second in great memories. But, I don’t want to own one.
Truthfully, I’m a rare guy who could care less about “my car”. I’m only interested in four tires, an engine that runs, and of course a good music system.
I’m one of the perfect candidates for the autonomous vehicle that will become standard in the next 5-7 years. Driving is boring and unsafe. I just want to set my GPS, and read, talk on my phone and write stuff. I also want to get there safely and economically. The computer car will do all those things and better than any human whose errors of driving caused 93% of the 370,000 fatalities of the last ten years.
China has self-driving cars that have 140,000 miles of testing completed. BMW has self-driving cars testing on the Autobahn. Audi sent a self-driving car up Pikes Peak. Toyota unveiled theirs and Volvo and Google are testing here in California. Mercedes has already released many new computerized functions like their Attention Assistance Function that tracks more than 70 elements. It is checking for operator fatigue and if it senses you are deviating from your normal driving pattern, a cup of coffee image appears in the instrument cluster.
Speaking of Mercedes, I love the quote from Karl Benz, the company founder, who was the first person to legally operate on automobile on public roads. He said, back in the 19th century, “The global market for my invention will be limited by the lack of qualified chauffeurs.” He had no idea, like many inventors, how this new technology of autos would bring about huge social changes. I know the very essence of a car is about to change when it becomes self-driving.
There’s lots of news about self-driving cars and how they work, so I suggest googling it because it’s fascinating. The bottom line is, it is better than human driving in just about every way.