QOTD: Is the Road Your Prescription?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd is the road your prescription

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]

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2 of 41 comments
  • 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.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.