Don’t Be Autonomous, Go out and Drive Now!

While taking the “Journalist Express” down to Washington D.C., I read the information packet from The Washington Auto Show. They state:

As you know, our show is considered the “Public Policy Show” on the global auto show circuit and is noted for the unique confluence of people and programming that make the Washington auto show what it is – the central address where policy meets industry. We look forward to showing you what makes our event so special – from the latest in connected technology to the developments in design that help to preserve the environment and bolster your ride.

Arriving in D.C., we were immediately taken to Capitol Hill to hear a panel discussion on various levels of automation in cars to come. We were then off to RFK stadium to be given a demonstration of some near-future technology, not all that different than what is in a fully etched-out car right now.

The next day the Keynote address was given by Dinesh Paliwal, Chairman, President and CEO of Harmon. It was entitled, “Transportation’s Transformation and Harmon’s Drive to Humanize the Connected Car.”

While Mr. Paliwal was very eloquent, the thrust of these discussions was counterintuitive to an Auto Show. The gist of it was thus: in the future, you will get into your transportation device (I won’t do it the honor of calling it a car, as to me it would not resemble one) and be able to continue to work on your computer, read a book, do other e-tasks, and not worry about that pesky DRIVING! This device would get you from one place to another without you having to concentrate on anything but your iPad and your low-foam decaf macchiato.

Then why leave the house? If you are already jacked into the information Super Highway, why do you need this other device? The forum was all wrong for these discussions. I was at a car show! This site, Wheelwell, and others like it—as well as magazines and TV—prove that we humans still have a great love of our cars.

There was the usual collection of cars on the convention center floor, with all kinds of high tech add-ons giving you the good old heightened driving experience, but you were still in command! Yet at the same time, some of these additions take you away from the moment and what you’re doing: blind spot warning, lane departure warning, self braking. Nice tech, but you shouldn’t rely on it. You have to be present in the car and take the time to be a non-distracted driver.

Also, what about the sheer joy of driving? Not commuting and running around doing errands, but those times when the weather is perfect, the sun is out, and you just want to go find a great road and be one with your car? Not texting or FaceTiming, but getting that perfect downshift with a bit of heel-and-toe, using that third peddle on the left, and not a paddle shifter. Communicating with your car with simple human commands, not electronic ones. The confidence to drive without relying on electro-minders to do the job for you.

I don’t think these in-the-future “Jetson” like devices will give us more freedom… they will take it away bit by little bit—and take our individuality with it as well.

We modify, customize, hot rod and tune our cars to showcase our creativity and individuality and at the same time be part of a larger community—the automotive community. It is our open road, and I would rather drive it with my foot hard on the accelerator than to ride around in an iPhone on wheels. Maybe it’s generational, but if you speak car, I think you know what I mean. Go out and DRIVE!

Sean Smith is an automotive photographer and writer –

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1 Comment

  1. Yes, I hear you, but consider how AMG sees the future of some of this tech in the below article. Best of both worlds in my opinion.

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