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Car Enthusiasts Shouldn’t Hate Self-Driving Cars

I’ve talked to a lot of car enthusiasts about self-driving cars, and they generally all have the same feeling: no thanks. Car enthusiasts don’t like self-driving cars, because car enthusiasts are afraid that self-driving cars are going to ruin the fun: Once people get in a car, sit down and have it automatically bring them somewhere, then nobody will make cars for driving enjoyment anymore.

I think this is totally wrong, and I personally can’t wait for self-driving cars — and today I’m going to explain why.

First, I want to talk about traffic. The majority of Americans, and much of the world, live in large cities — and large cities almost always mean large traffic. Many, many people sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic as they commute, and that always means truly horrible driving experiences: You sit there, you go forward, you stop, you go forward and eventually you just get frustrated. To me, this is the biggest advantage of a self-driving car: You no longer have to do the whole “bumper-to-bumper” driving thing. You can sit there, the car does the work, and — in theory, anyway, maybe someday — you can do something else.

That, in itself, is the biggest benefit of the self-driving car — and, to me, it’s the primary reason why I’d like to have one: so I don’t have to sit in boring bumper-to-bumper traffic anymore, and pay attention as I do the same repetitive motion over and over. And it brings up another benefit, too: productivity. In a world where we have self-driving cars, why not run a treadmill while you’re being driven to work? It seems absolutely absurd now, but it wouldn’t seem absurd on an airplane — even though it, too, once would’ve been considered crazy. Plus, you could do that on your way to work instead of when you get home from work, giving you more time with your family. Same with answering emails, taking calls or anything else you might normally do from your desk.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s an obvious safety benefit to self-driving cars, assuming they work properly: They’ll do a better job of avoiding accidents than normal humans driving cars. Self-driving cars will probably never bring accidents to zero, but I’ve been on the road with a lot of people, and frankly I trust machines more than a disappointingly high proportion of human drivers.

Of course, there are other potential benefits, too — less traffic, improved efficiency, whatever. But I’ve named my top benefits, and now I’m going to explain why I don’t think this should worry car people: because there will still be fun cars. You will still be able to enjoy yourself in a car — I mean it.

Consider basically any other form of movement, and there’s a fun activity devoted to it. Snowmobiling, skiing, motorcycling, horseback riding, boating, jet skiing, whatever you can think of — there’s a “fun” component to all of it. It makes no sense why this would go away for cars, just like it hasn’t gone away for any other industry. And the result there is an important one: as long as we still have fun cars for weekends, for back roads, for winding canyons, then who really cares if we have to sit in a self-driving, automated car as we go to work? What difference does it make if we commute in something special, just as long as we can be absolutely certain we still have special, fun cars that allow us to enjoy our weekends behind the wheel?

My view is that I’d gladly trade out my commuter vehicle for a self-driving car, as long as it got me where I needed to go and gave me less burnout and boredom on the way. As long as I don’t have to give up my fun weekend car — and I haven’t heard a single person advocating for that — then I see no reason why we, as car enthusiasts, should worry. Unless, for some reason, you actually enjoy sitting in traffic. Then your days of enjoyment are numbered. Hopefully.

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  1. First there were three pedals, then two, now none at all? Just like the manual transmissions killed by automatics and sedans killed by SUVs, real cars will be killed by the self driving monster. People are becoming lazy and that is not good. If that happens, real cars that people can drive will become rare, and the great feeling of driving will disappear.

  2. People thought crossovers didn’t deserve all the hate either, because automakers could make their sedans and coupes sportier and less practical for families thus being more desirable to enthusiasts. Now we have entire companies dropping their car lines. Automatics were supposed to make it easier to daily drive sports cars, now it’s impossible to find a new manual vehicle. I want my daily driver to be fun, and my fun car to be even more so. And I don’t want my fun cars to be irreplaceable because they’ve been outmoded out of existence by the market for autonomous cars. We already are losing sports cars left and right, and sedans, and wagons, basically all manual options. All because a new market was introduced which guided lazy buyers who could care less about vehicles away from anything fun, to the detriment of enthusiasts.

  3. There is an argument to be made that for self driving cars to reach their full potential, it will require that all cars be self driving. As long as there are cars being driving by people, self driving cars will have operate at a reduced level of efficiency.

    A network of self driving cars would not need traffic lights, stop signs,  speed limits, or even parking lots. 
    The are also questions on whether people would own their own car or rent a car when they use it or subscribe to a car service for usage. 
  4. Like the automatic transmission, self-driving could infest mainstream cars, making it almost impossible to find a mainstream car with pedals and a steering wheel in the future. And that’ll mean most people will never get to experience the joy of driving.
    Of course this is theoretical; the last few years have shown us that self-driving cars are a very long way off, due to their poor safety. Not to mention low demand.

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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