Broken Down and Driverless?
Photo Credit: ABC News
The pedal’s to the metal for the advent of self-driving and autonomous vehicles. Forbes predicts that cars will be largely self-driving (driver still required in certain situations) by 2025 and autonomous (no driver needed) by 2030. Hot shot automotive companies like Tesla and hip tech firms like Google are not only investing in this concept but are duking it out to win the race to market. It’s not just these usual suspects either; research institutions are fueling the driverless gas tank with projects such as the University of Michigan’s MCity, a model simulating a myriad of road conditions which is dedicated entirely to the testing of automated vehicle technologies. Increased safety is the most compelling case in favor of the driverless movement since “94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error” according to Google. Without people behind the wheel we will not have to worry about inept, intoxicated, texting, elderly, teen, or mom-yelling-at-kids-in-the-back-seat drivers. This prospect is exciting to the everyday commuter or soccer mom but what does this mean for car enthusiasts? Not only will we be stripped of our fahrvergnügen, the face of car ownership itself might change following the prediction of an Uber-like system where cars are services provided to, not the property of, the consumer. This idea can be daunting to any member of our diverse community - whether your thing is street-legal mods for your 2005 RSX Type S or pushing the limits of your 2015 Aventador, you won’t be able to do it anymore, at least not on the public roadways. Is this the end, my friends? Certainly not, in fact this impending future could actually be BETTER for car enthusiasts.
“How can that be?” you might ask. Essentially, we will have to embrace change but luckily this is a car enthusiast’s specialty. Modifying attitudes, by perhaps accepting that the dual clutch in the Nissan GT-R might be okay after all, is as much a part of the enthusiast culture as are modifications to cars. We will probably find contentment in venues custom-made for showing off our rides, while for transit purposes, the autonomous vehicle will be our driver as we unwind on the way home from work and smirk at fading memories of those amateurs we once cut off. Some of us will reach into our pockets and pull out that wad of cash we saved by not needing to insure our modified/performance ride. While more regulation on the highways will be unavoidable we’ll likely be less policed in our own cars. Although we did temporarily defeat automakers in their attempt to prevent gearheads from working on their cars based upon the argument that modern automobiles are chiefly proprietary computers, sustaining this victory on the collective roadmap will become increasingly difficult as automobiles steadily morph into artificial intelligence. However in our garages and on our tracks, we will no longer have non-enthusiasts as back seat drivers. At home we will no longer be the requisite on-call mechanic for our friends and families.
This is not a major shift in focus for us since car enthusiasm is already cruising on the main road of technological expansion. We go online to investigate the newest mod trend or shop for aftermarket parts. Social media sites like Facebook and Carponents (shameless plug) have brought our community together from distant car parks to express our opinions, organize events, and share experiences (and pics of our rides!). We are not alone on this journey either – other mediums provide us with proof that evolution doesn’t have to lead to extinction. Most of us don’t use the ham radio to communicate with each other or ride horses as a means of transportation but these past times remain ever-popular with ample opportunities for pursuit and profit. Radios didn’t die out with the birth of cell phones and even served as a primary means of communication by New York City rescue agencies during 9-11. Car enthusiasts will not simply survive but can continue to thrive with a slight calibration. A few truly embittered might turn into hackers (which we are not suggesting you do, it’s illegal) in an effort to thwart the enemy of advancement; as inevitable as change is so are the folks who jump the lights. For the rest of us, the genuine enthusiasts, we’ll be seeing you off road.
Photo Credit: Lancaster Online