gmhTODAY 26 gmhTODAY June July 2019 - Page 47

SPECIAL SECTION I OUR AUTO INDUSTRY I Our Love Affair with the Automobile Written By Crystal Han f you’ve ever wondered how deep our love for cars goes, you only need to look at our sprawling interstate highways, our countless parking lots and garages, and our car dealerships packed with shiny new models. Over the years, our towns and cities have been remodeled and built to accommodate our cars more than us. If we complain about that horrible commute, it’s never the car’s fault, but that our highways aren’t wide enough, the speed limits aren’t fast enough, or the traffic lights aren’t efficient enough. Why do cars have such a powerful hold on us? And is this ever- lasting love or just an extended fling? Once upon a time, in an effort to change the public’s negative opinion about cars, the automotive industry sold the idea of “America’s love affair with the automobile.” Since then, cars have become intrinsic to the American way of life. Americans see their cars as a symbol of freedom and adventure. Just hop in the car and you can go wherever you want, whenever you want; just you and the open road. A car can become a makeshift house, a diner, a portable club, or a place of medita- tion. Whatever you need it to be, that’s what it’s there for. Our love for cars is so deep that people often swear that their cars have their own personalities. Some are difficult and rebellious, some like to go fast or slow. They all have little idiosyncrasies that make them unique, just like people, and quite often they become like extensions of ourselves. But perhaps what people love most about cars is the feeling of control. We decide how fast it goes and where it takes us, something we can’t really say for other aspects of our lives. Experts say that we are now seeing a rapid shift that’s comparable to the car industry’s early days, and the center of that shift appears to be self-driving cars. Tech companies and car manufacturers are spending billions to make self- driving cars a reality. They claim that, since most car accidents are caused by user error, the use of self-driving cars will lead to a safer driving experi- ence and fewer fatalities. While these companies are convinced that this is the best future for cars, a recent MIT study found that consumers disagree. The GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN june/july 2019 study questioned 3,000 participants and found that 48 percent expressed distrust in fully-automated vehicles. When they conducted the same study the following year, they found that the percentage of distrust had grown considerably. People of all age groups, but especially younger individuals, feel that technology isn’t advanced enough to handle the complexities of driving. There are too many unforeseen circumstances on the road that can’t be properly handled by an algorithm. Until cars are as smart as humans, the skepticism is likely to persist. If you get to the heart of the public’s distrust in self-driving cars, however, you’ll find that it’s the lack of control that really bothers us. Our cars would no longer be an extension of ourselves, but more like a chauffer. Sure, it would be convenient at times, like if you want to catch up on work or get some extra sleep during your commute. But that feeling of adventurousness and spontaneity would be lost. It seems that the love affair that car manufactur- ers used to win the public’s favor will now be their greatest obstacle. Continued on page 52 47