QOTD: Is the Road Your Prescription?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Yesterday’s questionable study regarding self-driving cars — in which the authors foresee a veritable utopia brought on by ultra-efficient, humanless robot cars — inspired the usual twinge of nausea in this author. Beware of any study that gleefully brushes aside massive job losses in certain sectors in order to tout increases in others. It’s usually the work of a zealot or someone who stands to bolster their personal wealth.

In this case, it also stands to separate you from the tactile experience of driving. Yes, there’s plenty of people who would gladly turn over their commute duties to an array of sensors and a digital brain — I think we’d all prefer that in stop-and-go situations — but if future roadways require a complete absence of human drivers in order to hit peak efficiency, we’d also be giving up the ability to de-stress. Driving means different things to different people. For some, it’s therapy.

Just how much of your driving is non-essential?

In a 2001 interview, new wave artist Gary Numan described the inspiration for his 1979 hit Cars, which appears in my YouTube suggested playlist on an almost daily basis. (The man doesn’t get the credit he deserves.)

Cars came about, Numan said, after he drove onto a sidewalk to escape a road rage incident. Presumably, once all cars dispense with their human driver, we’ll have no more instances of this. Let’s hope so, as there’s no way those law-abiding vehicles will take the initiative to remove us from a dangerous situation by any means possible.

“It explains how you can feel safe inside a car in the modern world, which is probably why you get things like road rage,” Numan said. “When you’re in it, you’re whole mentality is different, in a car. It’s like your own little personal empire with four wheels on it.”

Let’s put aside rage and focus on more positive feelings. Joy, contentment, or maybe just something better than you’re feeling right now. I’ll admit that much of my driving is non-essential, even though the trip usually starts with some random errand. Sometimes you just drive because you can — and if you’re doing anything, you’re doing it for a reason.

Whether it’s taking the long way home from work, grabbing a coffee and going on a Sunday morning cruise to nowhere, or just ditching the house or apartment for a turn behind the wheel, warm air buffeting your face, streetlight reflections dancing over the windshield, driving can ease tension, clear thoughts, and generally make life more livable. You’re connected to the world, but also able to escape it. This won’t be the case when every vehicle is a taxi.

So, what’s your take? Do you find driving to be as therapeutic as this writer? And what happens to our collective health when Big Tech, Big Auto, and Big Government wrestle the steering wheel from our hands?

[Image: Subaru]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • 08Suzuki 08Suzuki on Jun 15, 2018

    "It’s usually the work of a zealot or someone who stands to bolster their personal wealth." Just to let you know, this is where I stopped reading.

  • THX1136 THX1136 on Jun 15, 2018

    Some of what you mention, Steph, must be what motivated my dad. He worked for the Soil Conservation Service and knew many of the farmers in our county. When I was a kid he would randomly choose to take the whole family for "a car ride" - usually on a Sunday late afternoon/early evening. We would go basically nowhere in particular, winding down gravel roads or blacktop with my dad mentioning who lived where or some work he had done at this farm or that. Often we would end up at a Dairy Queen or a local dairy named Boyd's for an ice cream treat. Then home we would go. That rubbed off on me a bit. When I was younger I would hop in the car and just head out. We have a multitude of nicely paved roads in the middle of nowhere with very sparse traffic. Crank the 8-track, roll down the windows, drive 10 under and just enjoy the ride, not seeing another vehicle for several miles. It never felt like a waste and I got to see a lot of the area I may have never seen before. Even when my sons were young, when we would go someplace I would take a less direct route many times to "explore" and see new things. Relaxing and something I miss from time to time. Gas prices being what they are now - along with my wage being what it is - I don't do this much as I cannot afford the cost. Someday that may change - who knows.

  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.