When I was looking around for a new car a couple of years ago I made the difficult decision to go with an automatic.
To me, autos aren’t proper cars, and they don’t require proper driving, especially with cruise control. You don’t drive them, you sit and ride in them while steering a bit.
Mind you, to me front-wheel drive cars aren’t proper drivers’ cars either, because the driving dynamics are all wrong even if you have just discovered that you can bolt a 280 hp Toyota 2GR-FE V6 straight into the engine compartment of your Corolla. Proper drivers’ cars have a manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, and LOTS of torque. I know what I said.
The fact that it’s possible in some countries to be separately licensed for automatic and manual cars is the give-away.
On the other hand, I figured, these days car manufacturers put most of their R&D into the automatics. The thing is, we’re just one step away from automating the steering as well. There’s already push-button reverse parking systems. Tesla have an ‘autopilot’ system – and Google have deployed driverless cars that, I suppose, will eventually feed Street View.
The problem is the fine-tuning – I gather some of the Google cars have been involved in low-speed nudging. But that isn’t surprising when you consider the immense number of hand-eye co-ordination actions needed to drive a car. What the software has to do is emulate them with data input from sensors around the vehicle, all in an environment where not every car is automated and where random stuff can happen anyway.
So what advantages do we get from them? In theory, driving will not only be a lot safer, but you’ll have some productive time while you’re on the road. You’ll be passenger, the car (likely electric or hybrid) will be driving, and you won’t even need to navigate.
I don’t often make predictions about the future, but this one seems likely. All the technologies are here now – it’s a matter of refining them and getting enough public uptake. So everybody’ll have a different driving experience from the one we have today.
Of course, they won’t be riding around in proper cars like my old Ford Cortina Mk V (manual, RWD, lots of torque, no traction control, bwahahahahaha.)
But I guess that’s progress for you.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016