Back in 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft navigated a distance of more than 380,000 km to travel from Earth to the Moon and it did that with less computing power than you’d find in a modern pocket calculator. So it’s a bit ironic that I use an Android-powered smartphone, which is about a million times more powerful than the MIT-designed Apollo Guidance Computer used on that lunar mission in the late-1960s, to find my way around the streets of New Delhi.
But seriously, I sometimes wonder if modern cars and their drivers have become too tech-focused, and whether that deviates from the actual driving experience itself. Here’s an honest admission – I used to love driving cars back in the day when you could jump into a brand new car, start it up and just go. Today, I don’t find most new cars all that interesting. Or maybe I’m intimidated by new car tech, some of which makes it difficult for me to operate the radio or adjust the AC. Oh, well, with some effort and a lot of experimentation, my moderate grasp of technology is usually sufficient to get by in most modern cars. But, it’s just that I simply don’t want to mess around with Blueteeth or WiFi or smarthphone pairing or any of this new-fangled techie-type things in a car – I’d much rather just get on with the driving bit, something which my older cars used to do so well.
While some old fogies like me may continue to mourn the passing of the analogue era, digital is definitely the way forward. Everything from steering to braking to acceleration already is, or soon will be, ‘by wire,’ which is probably much more efficient than physical linkages of yore, but probably not as exciting. Modern cars can feel a bit isolated. Remote. Disinterested. Recently drove a superbly well maintained 15-year-old Ford Ikon 1.6 and was reminded of just how brilliant its chassis and steering feedback used to be. A new EcoSport just doesn’t measure up in that department. Heck, I even prefer the mid-1990s W124 Mercedes-Benz E-Class to its 2017-spec sibling.
Then again, the buzzwords these days are efficiency, electrification and autonomous driving. Cars need to be lighter, cleaner and more efficient. Plus, nobody wants to drive them anymore, since there’s too much traffic everywhere and parking is hard to find. Which is why in a few years, computers will be taking over the job of driving, leaving human beings to peer into their 5.5-inch smartphone screens while commuting to work. Then again, by that time, maybe we won’t be commuting to work at all – maybe we’ll only need to log in to our computers to get things done from wherever we are.
While I can’t predict what future directions automotive technology development will take, I do hope it will leave some space for actual driving pleasure – along with being useful, I hope future tech will also be fun. In the meanwhile, allow me to bid you farewell – this is my last piece for Auto Tech Review, as I prepare to move on to explore other areas of interest. All the best and take care. Goodbye.