Cars not Computers

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"Laissez faire" driving with Autopilot engaged

"Laissez faire" driving with Autopilot engaged

I have been attempting to follow the automotive industry’s new technologies. Some of the gadgets and do-dads have some substance, but as a whole, I am having a hard time following where the automotive industry is going.

How many cameras do we really need to drive? Last time I counted I came up with zero. Yet, there is more and more emphasis on creating a “safer” car that will take the thinking out of driving. I know the same could be said for seatbelts back-in-the-day, but those are quite rudimentary and mechanical in comparison to the reliance on microprocessors, sensors, and touch-screen displays that are being incorporated into just about everything today.

This last weekend I was ripping apart a 2001 Firebird donor car for parts to use on my Camaro project. This is a car that is fifteen years old and in today's, here today - gone tomorrow world, might even be seen as archaic. I started to pull apart the layers of plastic and wiring and at times became overwhelmed with the vast quantity of sensors and controllers. I had done the same chore years ago on the ’69 Camaro and fit all of the wiring and electronics into one plastic tote. When the dust cleared on the Firebird I must have had 200 lb.+ of wiring, connections, and sensors that I still have no clue what they do. There was an insane amount of electrical components that were crammed in the dash and under the hood.

I shudder to think what lurks beneath a car coming out today with multiple cameras, radar sensing cruise control, and autonomous driving. Yes, autonomous driving! Tesla has a feature called “Autopilot” that actually takes over the wheel and throttle with the flick of the steering wheel mounted stalk. Of course these are all steps towards making the passenger “safer” and eventually will fulfill the dream of taking the driver out of the equation all together. Upon reading about Tesla’s newest tech I was left shaking my head in disapproval.

As much as I love the allure of reliability in a driver, I still have my apprehensions towards the superfluous added electronic clutter that takes the experience out of driving a car. Safety is one thing, making us lazy and inattentive is another story altogether. Sometimes the simplicity of something that “works” is a whole lot better than twenty microprocessors. Perhaps it is time to put down the cellphone chasing cartoon characters and pay attention to the road. Cherish the classics, because their simplicity is a godsend. The experience and memories they provide are worth a whole lot more than proximity cameras and car-assist parallel parking.


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