There is a sultry minx among us that has captured the hearts and minds of mankind for well over a century. A temptress so wily she has driven some of the greatest names in history to the pinnacle of success, to severe lapses in judgement and even to their deaths and she has done all of that with the same effortless aplomb as accompanying a bunch of kids to school.
She doesn’t show any signs of her age, in fact, she keeps improving to appeal to each new generation and she holds the interest of every generation she’s met, at least those of sound mind that are still breathing. At the ripe old age of 131 this mystical lady is not a mutant, manipulative, shape-shifting witch that shares some socially unacceptable tendencies with catholic priests. No, the woman that Michael Schumacher, the town drunk and John F. Kennedy have in common is of course the automobile and whether you race it, crash it, get shot in it or just commute with it I defy you to disprove that cars are an immutable part of our lives.
The reason we’ve all spent so much mental capacity on cars throughout its reign and the reason many of us slave away at some office job to make those monthly payments on a car often has precious little to do with how practical or economical they are. We are as likely to commute on horseback today as teenage boys are to put posters of that newly released super-efficient family van on their bedroom wall. The car is infinitely more than just a mode of transport to some of us; it represents freedom, adventure, the pregnant girl in school who made the wrong decision in the backseat, but most importantly it embodies our wildest dreams and offers the best thrills known to man.
Enter Silicon Valley and the environmentalists who have relentlessly pushed for technology to fundamentally change cars as we know them with the search for viable alternative energy sources and attempts to outsource the driving duties to a computer. Electric cars finally have come of age with the big brands of our time throwing their hats in the ring and hybrid race cars winning every Le Mans 24hr since 2012. There was a time when electric car was nothing but a euphemism for horribly ugly, I’d like to thank fellow countryman Elon Musk for moving us beyond that time (and yes, Elon, we’re going to keep calling you a saffer until the end of days, we desperately need some success stories over here).
I’ll admit the march of progress towards electric cars was quite the concern for your average car nut such as myself. I kept waking up in cold sweats screaming things like “what about the thrills!”, “real engines sound much better!” and “please god, anything but electric!” … okay not really, but you get the picture. I have come to appreciate that electric does not necessarily spell the end of fun, just as I use to hate automatic transmissions until I threw a few supercars with modern dual-clutch systems around the racetrack. Most, if not all, modern cars with automatic transmissions give you the option of changing gears yourself anyway, my fears were ultimately unwarranted.
With those grave concerns out of the way technology still marches on relentlessly and produces entirely new threats to fun in the form of cyborgs like Google’s driverless car; oh the irony of taking a 131 year old symbol of freedom and adventure only to remove the freedom and adventure bits …
This too shall pass, the fear of driverless cars killing fun that is. I can even imagine letting the car handle the commute to work or the drive home after a few too many, neither scenario being one where anyone would choose to drive anyway. Arrive at the racetrack and let the car show you a hot lap that you can try to beat, take a nap behind the wheel on long hauls and take back control when it is time to attack some exciting bends on the mountain pass, indeed, I can see some very promising possibilities. I have but one wish to ask of Google and anyone else implementing this technology in their future cars; please, pretty please with cherries on top, never forget the off switch!