Why I won’t be buying an autonomous, electric, connected car

Written by on May 4, 2016 in Opinion with 4 Comments
Freeimages.com/Konstantinos Dafalias

Freeimages.com/ Konstantinos Dafalias

I wasn’t sure for a while but now I definitely know that I don’t want an autonomous, self-driving, all-electric, connected car. No sirree, not for this old-fashioned classic car geek. Driving a car was the most life-changing moment of my early years and one that I have cherished ever since and I am not giving that up easily.

At 17 driving a car was the real sign you had entered adulthood. You could drive a car before you could drink alcohol in a bar. You could drive a car before you started working. You could drive a car and ‘pull the babes’ (that was hip talk in my day) even if you were a bit of a geek. You could drive a car just because you could.

Cars were a status symbol and you wanted your car to stand out from the crowd, to be an extension of your own personality. You modeled it after the hottest racing cars of the day. You had big fat stripes running right through the middle and GT badges on the back. You fitted the shiniest mags and fattest tyres you could manage or afford and you laid rubber to show off your coolness. And it had to sound loud and mean just so people knew you were coming.

Some of the most memorable and frightening experience happened in the front seat, and some of the most memorable and exciting things happened in the back. Maybe we shouldn’t go there – but you get my drift, right?

If you were really, really cool you had a a ‘tricked-up’ van with a surfboard rack on top (sans surfboard unless you were really loaded), lacy curtains and a sticker on the back window declaring “if the vans a rockin’ don’t come knockin’.” Ah, what memories!

But driving a car also required skill, concentration and spatial evaluation skills (mainly for parking). You used to change gears whole engaging the clutch and maintaining ‘revs.’ You had to check the oil, water and tyre pressures regularly and you knew when something when you could either hear a strange noise or the car wouldn’t go. There were no fancy sensors or microchips to do that for you.

When you wanted to go somewhere new you took a road map with you and tried to follow the lines as well as you could, or you stopped and asked for directions (if your pride would allow it). If you were really lucky you had a push-button radio or eight-track cartridge player to listen to music, followed later by the compact cassette. What a miracle of modern technology that was!

If all this connected car malarkey is true all I will have to look forward to a is bleak and boring future of being driven around by a car that you will summons from a mobile phone and the tell it where you want to go and it will take you there.

It will drive safely, take no chances and break no laws in the process and the whole time it will be relaying its every movement back to a central computer that will monitor its condition via hundreds of sensors. I will be so bored I will have to resort to watching streaming videos from YouTube and Netflix, send messages and pictures to other bored people outlining how bored I really am.

My electric car will be so quiet and so smooth I will probably fall asleep only to be gently awoken at journey’s end by a soft, machine-generated female voice and associated avatar as the car is being parked effortlessly at the final destination.

Gone will be the only excuse left for not answering a phone call or responding to an email – “sorry, I was driving when you called.” Those moments of exhilaration letting loose on the open road, taking on those curvy mountain roads, and being able to clear the head for only one function – enjoying the driving experience will only be memories.

I still want my car to be an extension of me – not me an extension of it. Give me the smell of petrol and oil, of burning rubber and the odd exhaust fume over the antiseptic qualities that a silent, autonomous electric car will deliver. I wonder if my great-grandparents felt the same giving up their horses and carts.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of DisruptiveViews. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide. .


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  1. Eric Priezkalns says:

    In the future you won’t have a choice. You’ll be forced to use a self-driving car for the safety of everyone else – and to make you easier to control! And the only alternative will be inflexible, overcroweded public transport…

    • Tony Poulos says:

      With any luck Eric, I won’t be around to worry about it, or I’ll head for my lead-lined cave and become a hermit, living on the memories!

  2. Alan says:

    Your car is already connected, its called your mobile phone you carry with you. Its just some people are dumb and pay for a data service for their car when they already have already paid for a data service they barely use in their pocket. What is the point of monitoring the car every second, when the regular annual service has proven adequate for decades. Cars are reliable, just because its possible, doesn’t mean it makes any sense.

    Then the link between self-drive and connected car is tenuous at best. Self-drive cars have to be autonomous as decisions need to be made in milli-seconds. “Hang on a sec, the Cloud-based NFV IoT Connected Car platform is having a momentary glitch… Just give it a couple more seconds….. crash!” And who is to blame? The network operator, the cloud provider, the NFV IoT Connected car platform provider or the software provider, the car manufacturer, etc. We’re living through some of the most incredulous weak minded marketing I’ve ever seen.

  3. Michah Himmelman says:

    Similarly, I reminisce of my ink fountain pen…
    Do you own a “smart” phone? If so, you eventually will own such a car.
    As for those back seat memories, I imagine that “smart” cars will hardly be a disturbing factor. Rather the opposite 😉

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