I’m trying to understand how this will go down.
Into the 2020s, we will be moving around in pods that require no operator input. These machines are called autonomous cars.
Why are they called cars? Why not label them transportation vessels?
You drive a car. You ride a bus, train and autonomous cars. Just get in, sit down and shut up. Let the software engineers make sure you arrive at your destination—safe and sound and bored to death.
What’s the point? What fun is an autonomous car? No speed shifting—no heel-and-toe downshifting—no nothing. But wait, maybe we could hack into the software so our pod does a burnout at stop lights. On second thought, no, I want none of it.
The oldest car company in America, Ford, has announced it is getting out of the car business in North America with one exception—it will still produce Mustangs. Ford has decided that cars are no longer profitable, and it will focus on $65,000 pickups and SUVs.
FCA, the company that used to be the Chrysler Corporation, got out of the car business years ago. The only exception is the Hellcat, a 700-plus horsepower street rod and the Demon, which packs 800-plus ponies to burn up rear tires on a drag strip.
FCA plans on making money off RAM trucks and Jeep products. Imagine that. FCA dropped the name Dodge from the pickup line.
General Motors has not weighed in, but there is credible speculation it will jettison some of its cars. This borders on un-American. What would this country be without ’55 Chevys or ’58 Impala Super Sports?
Our domestic automakers are betting on continued cheap gas. It’s a risky bet. If prices go back to $4 a gallon, American automakers will be sitting on a pile of gas guzzlers, which will further open the door to foreign manufacturers who always play the long game.
The anti-car culture has invaded car advertising. How creative is it to see an ad with kids standing by the car with skateboards and goofy hats? What happened to exciting ads touting fast, sleek cars or honest ads highlighting a small car’s benefits?
Remember the Volkswagen Beetle ads? Think small. The best one was a blank page with a small photo of a Beetle telling you, “It makes your house look bigger.”
In recognition of my advancing age, I have pledged to make impulsive decisions and impulsive purchases. One of the purchases was a 2006 Mustang. Nothing fancy, mind you—a V-6 with a manual transmission. It is candy-apple red with a black leather interior. Be still my still-beating heart.
I try to behave when I’m driving it, but the temptation to violate a few ordinances is overwhelming. As Jason Isbell asked on his “The Nashville Sound” album (CD or whatever), “Am I the last of my kind?”
I think not, but we are a dwindling minority. I can sum up autonomous cars with this—if you can’t drive it, if it doesn’t make a lot of noise when you floor it, I want no part of it.
In terms of a world without cars, I can’t imagine living in it.