Automakers, Please Don’t Turn all Cars into Playstations on Wheels

The wheel has been discovered some 5,000 years ago, yet our cars have barely went past their 100th anniversary if we use the first mass produced Ford Model T as a starting point. Compared to the old means of transportation, they are still relatively new contraptions made by people, yet they evolved so much in a century, you can barely call them “cars”.
Have you even wondered why we call them “cars” anyway? Well, the word “car” probably comes from “chariot” or “cart”. People used horse-powered chariots (or carriages/carts) back in the day when the engine was still on the soon-to-be-invented list.

Then came the first motorized chariots, or carriages, looking pretty much like one of those Amish ones, minus the horse and having an engine. The phenomena started to grow, they got named “motor cars” and since humans tend to be a bit lazy, only “cars” remained.

Of course, French people called them “automobiles” , a word which is derived from ancient Greek, “autos” meaning “self”, while “mobilis” denoting the term “movable”. And you know what? Their name suits better these vehicles today.

Back in the analogue era, you could still feel the wildness and roughness of a “car”. It was a living piece of rolling art; master craftsmen were working hard to obtain curved surfaces, shiny ornaments to remind of the old chariots, hand made luxury leather interiors and carefully sanded/lacquered wood trimmings.

A car back then was carrying the spirit of those skilled men wherever you went and using the power of dozens of horses coming out from a compact smelly mechanism required a lot of skill and know-how.

Those were the real cars you needed to tame and each time you arrived at the destination felt special. You felt the smell of gasoline, heard each explosion in the cylinders, felt every part of the system moving in a coordinated orchestra; you were feeling alive, you were driving a machine at speeds no one knew was possible and anything could happen.

Today, you need to pay a lot of money to feel that, otherwise you basically get a soulless apparatus that only takes you from point A to B. And it feels like a mute pain you can’t get rid of to see how the joy of driving is slowly dying out. Future generations will probably look at pictures with cars asking what is that big round doughnut on the left and why is it there instead of a joystick.

You don’t feel that alive when driving now, these cars are isolating you from everything else. You hear nothing and feel nothing. It’s just like sitting on the couch, playing Gran Turismo on your Playstation.

How many times have you got behind the wheel of your brand new car and started to drive slowly only to find yourself minutes away speeding because the sense of speed is so diluted?

I got my driver’s license in 2007 and my first car was made in 1984. It was a rusty communist POS, but boy it was a challenge to drive and no other day in it felt like the one before. From turning the key in the ignition to keeping it on a constant speed and brake to a stop, everything was a challenge.

Yes, I had almost zero safety features in that car and in case of a serious accident it would have probably been transformed into to pile of twisted metals with some minced meat inside. But being so crappy, you could’t dare driving it fast enough to die in it.

It had it’s own way to keep you safe and as a bonus, it was teaching you something new about mechanics on a regular basis. My weight on the driver’s seat was always countered by what I had in the right side of the trunk.

A huge collection of tools, spare oil and even spare parts if I wanted to leave town, were laying in the trunk slowing me down and keeping the fuel consumption up. You never knew what could possibly go wrong and personally, I had a small adrenaline rush each time I was trying to start its 55 hp engine.

Most of the time it was a pain in the arse to drive it, but as I mentioned, you felt alive, thrilled, constantly challenged and sometimes angry. Unfortunately (or fortunately, regarding my safety), rust started to ate its underpinnings so bad that the car started to grow its own stanced wheels, so at one point I had to say goodbye.

I then took command of a brand new French car. For the first time I felt not a single stress while driving and was starting to like the idea of dependability, air conditioning, a stereo that actually works, smooth ride and electric windows.

But as a petrolhead, I soon started the feel the lack of that masochistic sensation when driving an old car. The steering wheel was too light, the gas pedal felt exactly like the one you get on a PC steering wheel peripheral and damn those brakes were working like a charm. Not to mention the fact that I could start the car each time I turned the ignition ON.

The more I started to drive newer and newer “automobiles”, I discovered they are really like my Playstation. They’re made out of plastic, all have computer wizardries somewhere behind the dashboard, neither the pedals are physically connected to the mechanisms they command (same goes for the steering wheel) and you basically have to play a driving simulator seen through the windscreen.

And looking at what automakers are currently developing, it looks like they’ll make sure our next “cars” will better simulate what car video games offer. Until, now it was vice versa, but soon well have smart windshields displaying the perfect racing line and braking points when going on the track, while the rest of the interior will bring more Internet and less exterior stimuli.

Don’t get me wrong here, I like technology as much as you do, but strictly regarding driving, the GPS, a USB connection, ABS and traction control are more than enough for a gearhead. Automakers should keep their apps, sensors and future self-drivingness for those born in the Facebook age.

There are still many of us out there wanting to experience true driving without having to pay tenths of thousands on restored classics, only to find out there are huge taxes to run them. Toyota has earned my respect for putting out the GT 86, although it could have been better, and many more automakers should do the same.

Scared of emission regulations? Heck, make them hybrids, but do make sure you put a button there that will make the gasoline engine roar through the pipes. And for the love of all dinosaurs that died for us to have petrol, stop putting those fake engine noise generators inside cars; they’re just sprinkling salt on the wound.

Please automakers, don’t just substitute the drugs you created a while ago with these Playstations on wheels you call “cars for the masses”. I mean they’re good for the business and the whole ecology thing, but don’t forget about our addiction and give us a hit from time to time.
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