It seems like every major manufacturer has been experimenting with self-driving technology, adding more functionality to vehicles that might, in time, render human drivers obsolete. As more and more cars are equipped with driver assistance systems, drivers are starting to feel that the more control is taken out of their hands, chipping away at the joy of being behind the wheel on the open road. Has technology really taken the thrill out of the driving experience?
Man vs. Machine
With most of the accidents on the road being a result of human error, manufacturers are using this as inspiration to put more control of the car in the vehicle’s own hands (well, in the hands of the on-board computer at least). Intelligent systems have the ability to not only recognise speed limit signs but also take control of a vehicle’s speed. Lane departure systems notify drivers when the car drifts out of lane, and some have an automated steering correction feature installed. Granted, these features allow for greater safety on the road by minimising human error, but keen drivers who want control of their cars may complain about the lack of ‘feel’ they get when the artificial assistance takes over.
Building up the boredom
Different automakers are introducing these ‘intelligent’ features one at a time, slowly building toward vehicles that are fully autonomous. Each step gives drivers the chance to adjust and build it into the lessons they picked up when they learnt to drive.
There’s no denying that the change could be drastic, however. Google’s self-driving car doesn’t even have a steering wheel! Yep, it seems as if technology is starting to teach drivers not to drive – not something that pleases the purists.
Technology doesn’t mean that you’re not absolved of responsibility though. In the world of the automated car the occupant will sit, cricket umpire like, checking the technology is working and that the correct decisions are being taken by the computer. In case of error the ‘umpire’ can make the decision to take over for themselves. Any umpire needs a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game – the ‘umpire driver’ will, likewise, need a thorough knowledge of the rules of the road. That makes the theory test – and keeping the things you learnt for this fresh – more important than ever.
For the pure petrolhead purist, part of the joy of driving is the freedom and independence you can have as a driver. Been out for a day and spot a nice pub on the way back? No worries, you can easily take a slight detour and pop by for a spot of lunch. Stuck in traffic? Take a detour and find a new route home. Fancy a longer more scenic route in the sunshine? No problem.
People worry that the creeping effect of technology is to take those moments of spontaneity away from us. People are already concerned that Sat-nav systems have made people’s geographical knowledge poor as they rely too heavily on their in-car navigation instead of using their brain.
For some, the ability to make snap decisions to change a route and the satisfaction to be had from finding your way somewhere are part of the excitement of driving and it’s clear that technology is changing and reducing this aspect of the whole experience.