Counterview: Death of Romance in the Time of Driverless Cars

Driving is a very personal thing, sometimes, I believe, more so than being in love, writes Shakunt Saumitra.  

Tech News
2 min read
Audi R8 (Photo: Audi)

Predictive text is irksome. Why? Because you don’t want the machine to think for you. And as smart as your phone might be, it doesn’t have an iota on human instinct.

Driving is a very personal thing, sometimes, I believe, more so than being in love. It is something fiercely intimate and possibly the only time when man and machine can come close to having a cohesive relationship.

Then comes the issue of gadgetry like ABS, EBD and those 30 other buttons you see nowadays that are replacing a driver’s skill, that will never be trumped. Cars are becoming lounge furniture and it is very disturbing.

A machine at the wheel will be purged of the very human need to accelerate to thrill, it shall be a world of controlled gear shifts, slow corners, higher fuel efficiency. And seriously, nobody wants a dehumanised terminator at the wheel.

A car is about theatre, histrionics, character. I believe we’re rapidly losing the entire plot with every new car that rolls out, some talk to you, choose songs, dial wrong numbers, control the air conditioning and I think it all started out with killing fun and promoting mediocrity.

With cup holders and oak and mahogany finishes on the dash. If you hurl a car in a corner and come out smoking, in the days of yore, I’d have worshipped the person at the wheel, now it’d probably be a button on the console.

The sheer adrenaline that’s getting drained from machinery the world around is symbolic of our deadening curve towards the end of the greats. The V12s are all but almost gone.

Cars are quieter, efficient, fast but well, neutered for the lack of a better word. Formula 1, at least the last that I saw of it, was ear splitting noise that was beautiful, unapologetic, and symphonic.

When you’re in the grandstand and a whiff of black, red or green comes hurtling down the final straight at well over 370 kmph and brakes at the exit, when the downshifts sound like gunshots, it’s an ear splittingly uplifting experience, it was even more so in the times of Senna, or Villeneuve, the elder, of course.

Today, it’s like Santa Claus taking kids to school. Of course, it’s still fast but I’m sure racing isn’t all about the statistics. They just killed the drama school section with the quieter turbo charged engines.

The wonder of a mean, minimal and mental naturally aspirated engine is not something that the now tamed herd human mentality is ready for. As I was discussing with a friend one day, leather has given way to linen. It is more of what a machine would want, convenience over thrill. And unfortunately, we’re giving in.

We took what could be a beautiful relationship, tinkered with it and dropped it into a rut. Human nature, is a terrible thing.

Click here to read the other side of the argument.

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