Particulate Matters: I’ve Got This, But Thank You
My thoughts this month are on automation. I say “this month,” because while almost everything in our world is continually being automated in some way or another and simplicity is at the front of most people’s mind, I believe I’m one of the last bastions of resistance to the push-a-button-and-it’s-done movement.
Jokingly, I cite having trust issues as my reason for not giving in. If you want things done a certain way, you’re better off doing it yourself. Right? Of course, that’s not totally true. I have utmost confidence in folks I count on: my wife and family, close friends, and, from an in-house perspective here at Diesel Power, the men and women who contribute their time and energy to ensuring a new issue makes it to market each month. They’ve got my back, as I have theirs. No doubt.
I guess it can almost be considered ironic (or just plain crazy?) that the primary area I have big-time concern regarding automation’s onslaught is, well, the automotive sector: cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks—yes, diesel-motivated—that are all of our interest…and many of our livelihood.
While my concern is piqued by all of the “auto-” prefixed features and accessories 2019’s diesel offerings are outfitted with, my “wow moment” came after driving a few heavily assisted 2018 and 2019 rides and experiencing automatic takeover firsthand.
I’m not going to shout out specific makes in this report, as all the Big Three and many other automakers are guilty of trying to make driving easier in some way or another. Be it “Parking Assist,” “Lane-Change Alert,” “Trailer-Backing Control,” “Keep-Your-Distance-In-Heavy-Traffic Throttle Modulation” (or whatever it’s officially called), or the one that has been all the rage for a few years now, “Autonomous Driving,” the assists are actually computer-controlled/dependent vehicle takeovers of sorts, and honestly, I just don’t dig them.
Being from the old school of drivers (I’m licensed since ’79—yes “OG” right here) who learned how to operate vehicles before any of the high-tech stuff was even fathomed, the notion that the driver must be in control of the motor vehicle at all times is ingrained in my brain. I mean, to this day I still don’t set cruise control—ever (thanks to having severe hanging-throttle/runaway-truck paranoia)—and I’m just getting to a point in my driving career where, in addition to watching mirrors and turning my head, I’ll quickly glance at the screen in trucks equipped with rearview cameras, just to ensure I don’t crunch a bumper against whatever is behind me.
That’s actually very convenient. However, on more than several occasions, I’ve watched much younger drivers keep their eyes laser locked on the screen through the entire parallel-parking process, or simply flip a switch and let the car do it for them, giving an impression that “this is the way it’s supposed to be done.” Trust me, it’s not.
I know some of you reading this do not cosign my thoughts about automation’s increasing presence in the vehicles we drive. And I’m confident some of you are nodding your heads in agreement. Of course, that’s fine, as I’m not presenting my views to make you think one way or another. As new-vehicle season will be upon us by the time you read this, with major auto shows happening around the world and the latest bad-ass (operationally assisted in some fashion) rigs on display at dealerships everywhere, I guess I’m laying my thoughts out there to get them off my chest. And, as always, I appreciate your indulgence.
We live in a take-it-or-leave-it world. That’s a fact. When it comes to driving a motor vehicle, I still prefer having 100 percent of its operation in my hands, foot, and control. But as a car/truck guy who understands progress is necessary and a good thing, I really do acknowledge and appreciate the brilliant people who come up with the automated-automotive technology and are moving things forward. If they ever reach a point where “fail-safe” stamps can be put on all of it, I’ll probably join the rank-and-file folks who use features that make driving easier. Well, a little simpler. And that’s a really big “maybe” for now.