The advancements car manufacturers are making toward driverless cars are in the news daily. Media outlets tout the benefits of sitting in your car while it takes you from one destination to the next, safely and carefully. According to Financial Times, the British government recently announced it plans to offer $155 million in funding over five years, to be matched by the car industry, for research into “intelligent mobility.”
But the driverless car experience sounds terribly boring for true driving enthusiasts — especially because some current driverless car prototypes look like this:
Manufacturers are putting billions into the driverless option, but how many drivers want to not drive? Jaguar and Land Rover seem to agree, taking a stance against a computer behind the wheel. Automotive News reports that the company’s head of R&D, Wolfgang Epple, said at a press event: “We don’t consider customers cargo. We don’t want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B.” Well said, Mr. Epple. Isn’t that what buses and public transportation are for?
However, it’s hard to see autonomous cars as anything but inevitable. If that’s the case, here are 10 things we’ll miss when the world goes with driverless cars.
1. The steering wheel
What are we going to do with our hands once the steering wheel is gone? Will it still feel awesome to roll the window down and rest our elbow on the door while our other hand effortlessly commands a two-ton machine? Will we still casually hang our arm out our driverless car’s window limply while we putt at 20 miles per hour at a perfectly calculated, safe distance from the vehicle in front of us? A scarier thought is, will our driverless car even let us roll our windows down?
2. The adrenaline rush of nearly rear-ending someone
Emotions and primordial survival instinct are at play if you’re driving hard and well. The simultaneously thrilling and panicked feeling of knowing you almost hit the car in front of you but didn’t, thanks to your sharp, super-human braking response, will no longer exist in an autonomous vehicle. What will become of us?
3. Spontaneously deciding to exit the highway at the last minute
Driving offers us the utmost liberty in knowing that the drive-through joint at the next exit is attainable. Robots be damned — humans are spontaneous creatures that sometimes change their mind. It’s much faster to exit the highway when you’re behind the wheel than reprogramming the robot in charge.
4. Nailing one traffic light after another
You’ve driven the same stretch of road for years and are a master of traffic-light timing. You know that the middle lane at a controlled speed means you’ll avoid the slow pokes in the right lane and the left-lane turners. The reward is coasting through all the green lights in the nick of time while you watch others hit their brakes in your rear-view mirror. A driverless car will probably follow the public bus slowly and faithfully while catching every red light.
5. Not having to look passengers in the eye when speaking since you’re driving
That awkward conversation in the car is more tolerable if you don’t have to look the passenger in the eye. Just keep looking out toward the road ahead while firmly gripping the wheel with both hands until the nagging is over.
6. Ruling the manual transmission
Deftly upshifting and downshifting through the gears of a manual transmission is the ultimate exercise in mastery for driving aficionados. The art of balance in knowing the exact footsie dance required between the gas pedal and clutch is as close to Formula One driving as most drivers will ever get.
7. Making parallel parking sexy
You can parallel park in spots that Smart Car drivers think twice about. Your finely honed parking skills are sexy and you know it. The right arm on the passenger seat is more than just a move to look at the spot you’re backing into — it’s the chance to lean into your passenger and let them notice your great hair and flawless skin. Unless your passenger is Bob in accounting.
8. Burning rubber
What’s more American than exercising your right to burnout? The shock and awe a good doughnut incites is short-lived if driverless cars are in our future. So seize the moment: Engage that line-lock, depress the clutch, and floor the gas pedal.
9. Passing like a boss
Leaving others in your dust fills an important emotional need: the feeling that you’ve won. There are few things in life you can control anymore. Work may be a grind and you’ve had a bad day, but you can still pass someone with more speed, attitude, and power than necessary. Winner!
10. Taking the racing line in curves
Pushing your car to the edge on curvy roads would make the car factory design engineers proud. They spent countless hours and millions of dollars to get the balance of weight, suspension, brakes, and tires just right for this very purpose — don’t let their work go to waste! Corner that turn just right as if you’re filming Top Gear’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.” Corner too late and you’ll miss the apex — and the thrill of taking the racing line.