Back Seat Driving



Traffic LightI’ve always had a problem driving in the back seat. As a kid, you could set your GPS to the spot on southbound I-75 where my family would have to pull over because of my carsickness. It happened when we drove from Flint to Detroit every Sunday to visit family. This was long before GPS systems, air bags and seat belts — when I-75 ended at 10 Mile Road.

Fidgeting in the back seat was not conducive to my digestive tract and neither was listening to Ray Conniff music on AM radio.

When I finally got my license, I fought for the coveted driver’s seat in our 1968 gold Buick Riviera with the 455-horsepower engine, Buick’s largest, and the AM/FM stereo radio.

I liked the feeling of control.

I love to drive, so does my brother and so did my dad. It’s genetic.

My brother knows every street in Jacksonville, Fla., and has an internal GPS system. My internal GPS system has been broken since I got my learner’s permit, but that’s never affected my driving. Sometimes being lost is part of the experience. It’s kind of like being at the library versus shopping on Nook. You might find something better on another shelf.

And now, when I have that nice lady from Google Maps giving me directions, I can be reasonably sure that I will make it to my destination, even if she sometimes takes me on the more circuitous and twice-as-long route. But at least I have control over the controls, which won’t happen in the future if technology presents us with the autonomous car, a car that drives itself.

Being the former JN car reviewer, I had the pleasure of test driving some of the most incredible cars ever produced. That being said, I can hardly contain my level of dread at the thought of a driverless car. I understand the safety aspect of it, the ability to avoid sleeping at the wheel or to “drive” drunk. And why ever have public transportation when you can get a jump on your day by working alone in your car as it drives you to work?

But, come on. Can you imagine how boring the Woodward Dream Cruise would be if all the cars were autonomous? Why even sit in them at all if the car won’t let you squeal the tires?

And how would you feel if you couldn’t control the speed of your own car, or pass that incredible moron who is clearly not driving fast enough, unless Mr. Autonomy’s software pushes down on the pedal?

How would you feel about the freedom of driving to Traverse City on a last-minute weekend trip Up North if your car made all the decisions?

I know, there is no such thing as getting away on a last-minute weekend trip Up North anymore, especially since the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes are ranked as the most beautiful place in the country and all the rooms are taken.

So you have to book your hotel a few weeks ahead of time, unless you want to stay in a horse stall on Mackinac Island for $150 a night that includes a bale of hay, a wool blanket and two pairs of very uncomfortable shoes, but I digress.

When I’m driving vacation-bound for some rest and relaxation, my vacation usually starts as soon as I start the ignition. But in an autonomous car, my vacation would start with some Dramamine.

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