Yesterday’s questionable study regarding self-driving cars — in which the authors foresee a veritable utopia brought on by ultra-efficient, humanless robot cars — inspired the usual twinge of nausea in this author. Beware of any study that gleefully brushes aside massive job losses in certain sectors in order to tout increases in others. It’s usually the work of a zealot or someone who stands to bolster their personal wealth.
In this case, it also stands to separate you from the tactile experience of driving. Yes, there’s plenty of people who would gladly turn over their commute duties to an array of sensors and a digital brain — I think we’d all prefer that in stop-and-go situations — but if future roadways require a complete absence of human drivers in order to hit peak efficiency, we’d also be giving up the ability to de-stress. Driving means different things to different people. For some, it’s therapy.
Just how much of your driving is non-essential?
In a 2001 interview, new wave artist Gary Numan described the inspiration for his 1979 hit Cars, which appears in my YouTube suggested playlist on an almost daily basis. (The man doesn’t get the credit he deserves.)
Cars came about, Numan said, after he drove onto a sidewalk to escape a road rage incident. Presumably, once all cars dispense with their human driver, we’ll have no more instances of this. Let’s hope so, as there’s no way those law-abiding vehicles will take the initiative to remove us from a dangerous situation by any means possible.
“It explains how you can feel safe inside a car in the modern world, which is probably why you get things like road rage,” Numan said. “When you’re in it, you’re whole mentality is different, in a car. It’s like your own little personal empire with four wheels on it.”
Let’s put aside rage and focus on more positive feelings. Joy, contentment, or maybe just something better than you’re feeling right now. I’ll admit that much of my driving is non-essential, even though the trip usually starts with some random errand. Sometimes you just drive because you can — and if you’re doing anything, you’re doing it for a reason.
Whether it’s taking the long way home from work, grabbing a coffee and going on a Sunday morning cruise to nowhere, or just ditching the house or apartment for a turn behind the wheel, warm air buffeting your face, streetlight reflections dancing over the windshield, driving can ease tension, clear thoughts, and generally make life more livable. You’re connected to the world, but also able to escape it. This won’t be the case when every vehicle is a taxi.
So, what’s your take? Do you find driving to be as therapeutic as this writer? And what happens to our collective health when Big Tech, Big Auto, and Big Government wrestle the steering wheel from our hands?