I recently wrote a comment piece bemoaning the fact that cars are getting boring. Boring because less and less skill is required to get the best from them.
Acceleration testing on a hot Jeep SRT had just been completed and I bemoaned the fact that all that was required only that you push the right buttons on the computer and it will get maximum response from the engine, tyres and transmission – no skill required.
The BMW M2 is a full-on sports machine. We road tested the manual version the other day and found that you don’t have to match revs on downchanges, the car does if for you. I stuffed up one start in a tight carpark and stalled the engine, which immediately restarted itself – no skill required.
I finished that previous comment piece by writing that no one is required to be able to drive a car competently to get a licence in Australia, and inattention is rife, so I guess having the car saving their bacon is a good thing.
Instead of watching the road many so-called drivers prefer to talk on the phone, work on their text messages, emails and music choices. Thankfully the vehicle’s computer warns if it’s straying out of a traffic lane, or about to ram the stationary car in front.
Some cars even let you know the car in front has moved off because the lights have turned green – so you can keep on texting for as long as possible.
There’s no longer any need to set the door mirrors correctly to remove blind spots because the car lets you know of any hazards.
Driving into a corner far too fast because you’re not paying attention? No worries, the car will work on modifying engine torque and dab the brake of an individual wheel to help bring it back onto line. A warning, though; the laws of physics will always get you in the end. Which may mean the end of you and anyone unfortunately riding with you.
Bring on the autonomous car for those stupidly inattentive folks as soon as possible I say.
Okay, so I’m approaching the grumpy-old-man stage of life, but my mind is still clear enough to understand I don’t have the driving skills my grandfather had.
For example, Grandad would have had to alter the engine’s ignition timing by using a lever on the steering wheel to set the engine up to start, and to prepare the car to climb a hill or accelerate to overtake.
I’ve a good idea on how to use a crank handle to start an engine, but have never done it. I understand that if you get it wrong a broken wrist is a real possibility.
Looking well into the future: if one of my great grandchildren gets a job as a motoring journalist they will concentrate on reviewing how well autonomous cars respond to voice commands; the speed of the internet and storage space available; the quality of the 25-speaker sound system; how well the car keeps in electronic touch with chosen friends; how well it communicates with other cars on what is happening them; that it charges its batteries fast having dropped him or her at their destination and found a nearby charging spot.
Comfort will probably come into the equation as well, but I’m not sure potential buyers will be particularly interested in handling or road grip.
My great grandkid journo will look at pictures of very old cars, those pre-2025, see a steering wheel and pedals and muse over the fact that great granddad actually knew how to use those weird things.
And perhaps ponder on the past and future of motoring in a Comment piece dictated to Siri’s great granddaughter and sent instantly from the car via their iPhone 32S.
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