Simple Cars, Simple Minds

I’ve often complained about California drivers, but I’m beginning to think that the issue goes beyond poor drivers on the west coast. Technology makes driving increasingly simple. Not even the people who are supposed to be experts in the field of driving truly understand what they are doing.

I didn’t drive for years. I had a variety of reasons, but in the end, public transportation is cheap and less worrisome than driving. When I decided to get my drivers license here in California, I was floored by how difficult it was. Not because of my lack of ability, but because of the lack of knowledge in the DMV. I was failed twice while driving my 1994 Toyota Celica with a manual transmission for things like removing my hand from the steering wheel too often. Um…hello…it’s a manual transmission. I have to remove my hand from the steering wheel to shift gears! Finally I borrowed my significant other’s car which has an automatic transmission. The only thing I was counted off for that time was not being aggressive enough. Anyone who knows me is probably sitting with their jaw on the ground at this point, but yeah, that was my one mistake.

That’s getting a little off topic. Over the years car technology has made driving easier and easier. My mother insisted that I learn to drive on a car with a manual transmission. She said that in a “stick,” each action the driver makes has a very tangible reaction. That is not true in an automatic. The fact that your actions in a stick are so relevant to the cars movement makes you far more aware of your surroundings. In an automatic, you’re more removed from the mechanics of the car’s movements, therefore people feel more comfortable, and are more easily distracted.

Now we are coming up with technology that allows cars to park themselves and detects if others cars are within collision distance. In my opinion this will make drivers even more complacent. Even worse, it will, at least in their own minds, absolve them of responsibility in collision cases. If a self-parking car collides with another car, there is no way a sixteen year old will willingly take responsibility for the collision. The same is true if collision detection fails.

Technology is a good thing; it enhances our lives and creates progress. Where my issue lies is with the concept of trying to use technology as a scapegoat. We still need to use our own senses, be aware of our own surroundings, and take responsibility for our own actions. Just because the technology is designed to help us do something, that doesn’t mean we should stop supervising the technology. When the car is parking itself, we have to watch it to make sure it does it right. When the car is detecting collision proximity, we have to keep an eye to be sure that the system is in good working order. Technology is there to back us up, just as we are there to back the technology up. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and we cannot become complacent, because when we do, the whole system falls apart.

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