Re-learning how to drive

Published May 13, 2017

So, I bought a new car. I know what you’re thinking, “when I read on this blog that the new car buying process was starting, it sounded like we were going to enjoy tales from every step along the journey.”

Well, yea, except that was five years ago. My old car kept on keeping on for longer than expected, and then of course, life got in the way, and I didn’t buy a new car. Then life got in the way again, forced my hand, and now I do have a new car.

On the road

It has CarPlay in it, which was one of the main selling points. That and the colour. I kid, actually, I desperately wanted a red car so I could beetle around singing “You can’t ride in my little red wagon,” at everyone. Unfortunately I had to settle for a sort of silver/grey. It’ll do.

CarPlay is brilliant. Limited by design, it is essentially maps, music and Siri. But it is those things at the touch of very big buttons, and my phone is tucked in a pocket away from temptation. Having driven my old car for many, many years and gradually watched all the various elements stop working, it’s amazing how the little things make a big difference. Air con that works! Entertainment through speakers instead of headphones! Central locking!

What’s also amazing is how far car technology has come… and how far it still has to go.

I like driving. My love of Formula One doesn’t extend to racing in real life, but I don’t mind getting behind the wheel for a good ol’ journey. I also really, really like the idea of self-driving cars doing all the hard work for me so I can get some extra zzzzz’s or read a book, or whatever takes my fancy. What I’m not enjoying so much is this compromise situation we have at the moment.

Compared to the decade old technology I was used to, the cruise control and gear change warnings and engine shutting off at traffic lights all seemed like unicorn magic that I was totally on board with. The longer I spend with the car, though, the less keen I am on any of it. The car knows how to drive better than I do. It’s constantly telling me when to change gear. It’s nagging me to be a more eco-friendly driver. It knows I’m reversing so cleans my rear window. It knows when to have the lights on and when not to. It knows how much fuel is in the tank and what range that equates to. It knows how to keep a constant speed, and it can recognise when there are obstacles in the way.

All of these things make me a lazy driver. I don’t need to keep an eye on the speedometer and I only reluctantly come out of cruise control when it’s probably long since been appropriate. I’m not even sure I know which lever controls the lights, because they’re automatic.

I’ve been driving this new car for a couple of months and am confident I am a worse driver now than I was when I had none of the bells and whistles. And all this new technology has done is made me want the bells and whistles even more. Bring on the cars that arrive at your door, pick you up and spit you out at your destination, only to circle around finding their own parking space and awaiting your return. Let’s get to the point where there are convoys of vehicles pootling along, peeling off to their required destinations and then rejoining the pack.

I want self-driving transport that doesn’t require my input at all. But now more than ever, I really think we need to go all in. Creeping along the journey step by step seems like a recipe for disaster. Get those self-driving cars on roads, get them their own lanes if you must, but do it and do it quickly. If I’m going to forget how to drive, little by little, as the car takes over, then I may as well forget it now and use that brain space for something far more interesting.

← Previous Endings are hard but important
Next → Adventures in Netflix