I've watched the autonomous vehicles space for some time. I love my cars. I love driving. I love going fast over the speed limit, while considering the other drivers on the road. There is an emotional connection I feel when driving. I don't see this emotional aspect addressed in autonomous driving.
Cars were the first piece of technology that was an extension of my self. My hand on the stickshift, I feel the subtle vibrations of the road, the rpms, the engine. My fingers become the tires on the road. Sticky to the pavement. Don't even get me started on the diversity of road - concrete, blacktop, asphalt, gravel, sand and variety or gratings - metal or grooved, if you're lucky a railroad tie covered bridge in Iowa.
I drive a manual. I like having the control to place the car in a specific gear. Downshift for more power. Upshift to give the engine a break or for long roadtrips. My manual turbo has been good to me. I could take better care of her.
Recently, I focused my interest. As happened with money, relationships, intimacy and wearable technology, I am consuming everything on autonomous cars. Crystalizing my thoughts by talking with people. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Alex Roy for an upcoming podcast. I first heard about Alex from his notoriety blasting the Coast to Coast record. NY to LA in 31 hours.
(Sidenote: I deeply longed for those late nights on the unofficial Malibu track - Piuma, Stunt, Mulholland. Although I have not (and would not) attempt a cross-country record, I have a few speed stories of my own. Sidenote to the sidenote: speed with safety.)
It will be no surprise, that I am skeptical about autonomous vehicles. Where is the passion? Why so much the focus on safety? The use case is, people want to get from A to B as safely as possible. I get that. But this whole paradigm forgets the passion, the identity, the experience of driving. It's part of America.
Will a self driving car give the same feeling I have when driving out the 62, 10pm, Milky Way overhead, a cool 78 degree wind whipping my hair? My hand on the stick, I feel the power engage as I downshift, and express itself as my foot presses the accelerator. Not to mention the sweet pause of disengagement when I engage the clutch and placing the gear softly in place, like falling into my temperpedic bed after a long day.
I concede that autonomous vehicles will be safer; but I'm afraid they'll kill the passion - the emotional experience I so deeply love.
How can we balance the benefits of technology to extend these emotional experiences?