Monday, February 22, 2016

The ultimate driving experience is behind the wheel

I am now the proud owner of a brand new and increasingly obsolete horseless carriage. At least that’s what I fear as technology marches on.

While my car has the latest “innovative control concept,” with “intuitive and interactive” functions, it has me at the steering wheel. And, apparently, I am soon-to-be outdated technology. At least that’s the plan in a future that aspires to autonomous cars, also known as driverless or self-driving cars.

I already had one step in antiquity, with my preference for manual-drive transmissions in a world of automatics. Recently, a parking-lot attendant told me he was impressed I drove a manual. I was impressed with the poor timing of his remark, having just parked at a funeral home to bid farewell to a beloved aunt.

No matter. He may someday be as obsolete as me, once autonomous cars hit the road. And it may happen sooner than later, considering all those investing and developing the technology. Among the short list of players are Google, General Motors, Tesla, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

Just this month, driverless cars gained the same legal status as a human driver. No, I didn’t make that up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration responded to a letter from Google asking for clarification on the word “driver.” The answer included, "If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the ‘driver’ as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving."

I don’t know what’s scarier. Sharing the road with human drivers prone to texting, applying makeup, shaving, and reading while driving, or relying on technology to never fail while barreling down the highway.

Maybe I’ll be more eager to give up the driving reins when I’m too old to navigate safely on my own. But that’s down the road a ways.

Until then, you can find me in my sport sedan, stick shift in hand, enjoying the ultimate driving experience.

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March 1 UPDATE: "Google says self-driving car hits municipal bus in minor crash"

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