Car Ownership and Human Driven Cars Never Going Away


Computers and technology are now part of everyday life.  Some of its great and has really changed the way we live, day-to-day and some of its useless and unnecessary.  But the one thing that the creators of technology seem to fail at, is the human aspect of everything they create.  The adage, if we build it they will come, is not necessarily true.  The smart watch is one example and Virtual Reality headsets are another.  Certain things simply can not and will not be replaced by virtual reality or any other technology and to those who spend the majority of their lives in that world, it’s probably very upsetting and perhaps incomprehensible.  Cars are the perfect example.  Technology creators and those who wish to change the world, (wishing is not a business plan), completely fail to take in to account what makes us human.

I recently read an article that car owners only use their cars 4% of the time and that’s the reason that people will be willing to give up car ownership.  Cost vs. usage.  That argument is utter nonsense!!  Humans probably only have sex 1% of the time and assure you, they’re not giving that up either.  Cars are not simply about functionality.  If they were, there would only be one or two car companies, one or two colors and people would simply choose between A or B.  Cars are not just functional, (a way of getting from point A to point B). Cars are about passion, status, and then practicality.  Trying to define what excites someone about a car is like trying to define love.  No matter how smart silicon valley makes machines, they can never love.  Love can not be programmed or made into a nice list.  LOVE can not be defined.  It simply is!!   It’s what makes us unique as a species.  Americans love their cars.

All one need do is drive around the outer boroughs of Manhattan, Long Island or Westchester and count the number of people washing their cars on a Summer Saturday or Sunday morning, using Armor all on the tires, or waiting on line at a car wash.  The thinking here isn’t I need to keep my money wasting automobile clean so I can sell it because I hate how much it costs.  The thought is, I love my car and I want to show the world how clean it is and by the way, check out those tires.  It may not be practical or logical but it”s true.  People won’t be selling them to join in the ride sharing fantasy of those who wish to create the next great money-making venture.

It’s certainly a different scenario in a city like New York but car ownership in the big city has always been a challenge. Just watch the Odd Couple episode from 45-years ago when Felix and Oscar decide to purchase a car in Manhattan. They got rid of it for the same reason that anyway who lives in the city today and can’t afford a garage would choose to get rid of it.  Alternate side of the street parking is a nightmare.  That hasn’t changed.  So let’s not make believe that there’s a new fundamental in place, or that millennials are the reason for this change. When they make enough money, and have families, they’ll want a Mercedes, Infinity or Toyota as well.  And the guy who parks his Ferrari in my garage, isn’t getting rid of it so he can save money and join the ride sharing community.

Finally, there is conjecture that at some point all cars will be self driven.  I don’t pretend to be able to predict one hundred years in the future but I can predict twenty years in the future.  All cars will, in all likelihood, have a self driving feature.  Someone driving on a highway on a long trip will be able to hit self drive and the car will do the rest.  That would be a welcome addition to anyone who drives more than 30 or 40 miles to work each way.  Or a family taking a vacation.  But the idea that cars will be completely self driven without the ability to take the wheel is not going to happen, at least not in the forseeable future.  I was happy to read that car executives from BMW and Mercedes stated that their cars will always have steering wheels.  We should all welcome safety and technology improvements but not at the cost of eliminating the passion, excitement and autonomy of car ownership.

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