Future of driving

Admitting to poking fun at Americans driving automatics, with a left arm draped out of an open window, Iain Robertson muses over the march of technology and how what might have made us ill, might all too readily kill, were the transition not better managed.

As a Scot not averse to taking pot-shots at my own country, which never ceases to be so good at failure, notably on the football field, I am also aware of my nation’s reported indolence, propensity to point accusatory fingers and a comic reliance on the demon drink. In many respects, the mythical tales about the Highland Haggis, which is equipped (apparently) with left legs shorter than the rights, a factor that allows wild herds to run anti-clockwise around mountains, also means that intrepid haggis poachers only have to stand in their way to effect capture. As they turn-around, they tumble helplessly into collecting nets at the base of the hills.

My cruel jests towards Americans suggested that it was only a matter of time before their inactive left arms and left feet (no clutch pedal to tax them) would lead to the rare sight of a perambulating pedestrian from Pennsylvania being unable to escape a physically inscribed circle of his own creation. While all of the above is complete nonsense, of course, I have had increased musings about the plethora of electronic drivers’ aids, autonomous offerings and road car steering wheels that are fast becoming more complex than the multi-faceted tillers fitted to most Formula One racing cars.

The bottom-line is, what have we become?

Online manuals aid familiarity

Show a child a manual window winder in a car and the exercise is likely to result in tears…sadly, adults can be afflicted similarly. Yet, ‘gesture control’, which is some German car companies’ means of short-cutting stereo button-pushing, will soon be superseded by EMC, or Eye Movement Control, which means that a teensy camera will be monitoring intentional eye movements and making operational decisions for the driver by optical inference. As an individual trained for super-observance while driving, I fear that my random, information-gathering eye movements may introduce a staccato series of automated windscreen-wiping, gear-shifting, radio station-changing, hot-and-cold climate-altering, handbrake-applying and automatic-parking, all during an otherwise innocuous drive down the A46.

Although this might be an overriding super-plan of the motor industry to drive us into fully-autonomous and driverless podules, where we no longer have to raise a finger, other than to swipe it across a mobile handset that summons the mobility module in the first place, it draws into question a human detestation of anything remotely related to exercise. While the ‘Muscle Marys’ and ‘Michaels’ spending enormous sums at their local Bannatyne health centre to obtain the bodies that none of their ancestors had will continue at capacity, perhaps they have not realised the benefits of inactivity promoted by technologists.

I ask the question again, what have we become?

Volvo crash

There was a time, when an external crank-handle performed the almighty task of whirring the infernal combustion engine into life. There were no locks on car doors, or their steering columns. Wipers were a distant dream and washers were not even on the horizon, which we would not had seen anyway. Then we got recliners, column stalks that did not change gears, heaters, chillers, electric this and that, tyres that possessed slightly more traction than a ball-bearing on Fairy Liquid and lamps that switched on and off automatically, because it was abundantly clear that we could not be trusted to carry out that function of our own volition.

Today, we have self-parking (because we cannot), self-steering (because we are too stupid to remain between poorly painted road lines), self-distance cruising (because we cannot judge either distances, or approach speeds), auto-braking (because we are unsure of how much pressure we need to apply in the first place) and automatic radio signal detection (because we are too lazy to press a ‘search’ button and DAB does not always operate as efficiently as we might like it to).

It seems that my questionable taste in jokes may be coming around to bite me in the bum. Personally, I would love to see steering wheel airbags being replaced by sharply pointed spikes an inch away from the driver’s chest, as that might make him think more intensely about close proximity driving. I would love to do away with keyless entry and starting that poses abundantly clear code-theft issues. I would love car designers to be of greater stature than Frankie Dettori, or Lewis Hamilton, so that ‘ordinary’ people might be able to fit in their influential style capsules.

However, my gravest concerns reside around an intended removal of complexity, only to make convenience switchgear ever more impossible to comprehend. We now have tiny icons percolating onto dashboard screens that not even our children can decipher. As to those left, right and centre arrows on a bamboozling amount of steering wheel cross-spoke-mounted micro-switches, were a sense of logic applied to them, rather than design-centricity, while accepting that they might become more cumbersome, at least I would not lose Radio Two, while trying to alter the sat-nav setting, or worse, find the car grinding to an autonomous halt, when attempting to adjust the head-restraint, or even twirl the steering wheel to negotiate a bend in the first place.

Conclusion:   Driving convenience ought to possess far fewer technology-for-tech’s-sake influences. Naturally, when autonomy does take over, we shall probably cease caring anyway. In the meantime, a car that does not drive itself, even though that option is becoming even rarer, remains the preferred option. #cars #auto #motoring #technology #driver-laziness