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Muscle Cars, the Antonym for Autonomous Driving

Not one week seems to pass without an important piece of news from the world of autonomous driving. This week, it was Elon Musk sharing his self-driving predictions with the world. The Tesla man is obviously right, human driving will be banned once machines learn how to beat us at the driving game.
While A to B transportation fans have plenty of reasons to rejoice in celebration of such a projection for mankind's progress, it makes me want to put on a boxing glove. I need my hands to drive and I don't want to hurt them when I repeatedly punch the computer screen.

One of the constants in our history has been the failure to establish a balanced relationship with our minorities. Yes, we petrolheads will be a minority in the future. Many governments can barely maintain the roads and the traffic in order now, when these are of key interest to the taxpayers, so imagine how well you will be assisted in manifesting your passion for the automobile. In fact, the dictionary description of the notion will probably change.

The idea of not being allowed to drive myself to whatever destination is on my agenda and probably having to spend a small fortune in order to do this as a hobby is enough to make me forget the human source of the issue and want to hit my computer some more.

But even if I magically stopped progress ignoring my love of gadgets, nothing would change, as the problem is already here.

Since we humans build our cars and not the other way around, they've inherited our hypocrisy. Engineers are told to make vehicles faster and faster as if the human body would constantly evolve in a way that would allow me to spot a child running across the road from one mile away. Naturally, that would mean I could safety slow down from my 155 MPH joyride. But, in reality, I can't stop and I'd cause a disaster.

So I don't take the car I'm driving to 155 MPH and become frustrated. Why? Well, I'm not being paid to race, so I'd be more than happy with sticking to 75 MPH and having tons of fun while doing so.

Alas, on too many occasions, I can't. Sure, I'm not expecting happiness to come from a Camry, but quite a lot of fast cars you can buy today feel numb at that speed. Nowadays we have hot hatches that can take down sportscars and supercars which easily exceed our physical capabilities. But just like speed doesn't kill (the impact is the one to blame) it also doesn't entertain - not enough to be worth it for me to risk a life or even my license.

But I've found the antidote. I'm not referring to a certain car here, that would be too specific. Instead, the solution comes from the entire muscle car breed.

Get out there in a Challenger with double the politically correct number of cylinders and you'll understand. These cars are the best way to prevent yourself from getting into trouble while getting home with a smile that will make your wife wonder if you've turned to cheating.

People tend to see the Golden Era in the past, but when it comes to muscle cars, we're re-living it. Ford Performance has gone berserk with the Mustang, Hellcat orders have surpassed production capacity , while the anticipation for the 2016 Camaro launch speaks for itself. Heck, these devils have even made it to Europe this time.

If there's any analogue driving hope left, that lies within these slabs of America. Sure, once computers turn into actual artificial intelligence (AI), they'll supersede us, but muscle cars were always about something that will always remain strictly human: emotions.

How much time have we got left? If I knew the precise answer to that question I'd be writting this using 140 characters on Twitter since I'd spend the rest of my time driving my bottomless car collection. It'll probably be a decade until machines are truly ready to drive people around without killing us and society is prepared to accept the fact, as well as make laws for it. From that point on, a ban on human driving may not be such a wild stretch.

And since we're talking 1s and 0s, I'd like to remind you where we're standing today in terms of AI.

Back in 2013, Mercedes-Benz made the first fully autonomous trip in history, with an S-Class driving the engineers inside it for 60 miles on the public roads of Germany, complete with traffic, pedestrians and soiling birds. The S-Class kept things pretty neat, but nobody said it was better than a human.

Fast-forwarding to last month, Google DeepMind researchers created a computer that managed to learn how to play the classic 2D Atari games by analyzing the way humans play and eventually beat the hell out of any flesh-and-bones opponent. There was a catch though and it was Pac Man that troubled the machine. This game requires planning ahead and currently the computer can barely look into the past a fraction of second in order to learn from its mistakes.

You know what I like most about Atari games? The fact that they were born soon after the first rise of the muscle car.

 
 
 
 
 

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