There is something worse than a generation gap. There is a worldview gap.
My generation – Generation X – was the last pre-computer generation and the last generation to reach adulthood before the Safety Cult had metastasized into a mainstream religion. When we were teenagers, we were expected to learn how to drive – because the cars wouldn’t do it for us.
Most of us learning to drive in cars with manual transmissions because back in the ’80s when we were teenagers, most of the cars within a teenager’s budget had manuals.
It was sink or swim.
Or suffer the humiliation of riding the bus with the 14 and 15-year-olds. Oh, yes. In that better, vanished time a kid was able to drive himself to school the day he turned 16 – which meant driving to school for the last two years of high school, so that by the time one graduated one had been driving for several years and was ready to deal with the adult world of driving.
The Millennials who are now rising – and “feel the Bern,” many of them – grew up strapped in, learned to be fearful and passive. They are not allowed to drive to school until they are practically out of school. They have been taught to regard cars as dangerous and despoiling things.
I met one such Millennial the other day at the coffee shop where I usually go to write these rants. It is my caffeinated version of Orwell’s (or rather Winston Smith’s) Chestnut But Tree Cafe. The waiters know me and keep my cup full without my even having to ask.
Anyhow, I’m friendly with another guy there, who is friends with this young Millennial. She proudly told me all about her new car – about how saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe it is. Not how it drove or looked. The first thing she waxed rhapsodic about was Lane Keep Assist.
Many new cars have this, apparently because many people have difficulty keeping their car in its travel lane and require “assistance” – in the form of electric motors attached to the steering gear – that nudge the car left or right, accordingly, when the driver isn’t.
Probably because she’s texting.
We Gen X’s may have been slackers but we didn’t have cell phones. We made maybe one or two calls a day, never from a car. Only Knight Rider had a phone in his car. And – wow – we should have seen it coming – Knight Rider’s car also drove itself.
But KITT drove better than Knight Rider. The Millennials, generally, do not.
One of the great fallacies of automated driving/saaaaaaaaaaaafety tech is that it drives like KITT. Snappy, well-executed maneuvers. Instead, jerky and slow ones. Lane Keep Assist feels like there’s a Down Syndrome kid pulling on the wheel – in the direction you don’t want to go.
This assumes you’re not a Down Syndromian driver, of course. Many Millennials are – having never learned how, on purpose. When they entered their teenage years, the Safety Cult was the established state (and cultural) religion. They always buckled-up for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety, never rode a bicycle without a helmet.
Probably, most of them never drove a car by themselves until they were almost not-teenagers – because the Safety Cult restricts their driving privileges until they are almost adults, all-the-while hectoring them with injunctions about . . . saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.
No wonder they’re obsessed with it.
From birth through early adulthood it’s almost their amniotic fluid. We Gen Xers didn’t buckle-up and grew up jumping into and out of cars, which made cars exciting and driving them something we lusted to do. We were not afraid of cars and the last thing on our teenaged minds was saaaaaaaaaafety. That being the concern of old maids and twits.
At least, in that better vanished time.
In today’s time, youth in what should be the flower of their exuberance are cowed, fretful and grateful for anything which promises to . . . keep them safe. I made a pointless effort to gently explain to this Millennial girl that it might be safer to learn to control the car than to rely on technology which may control the car in ways that aren’t very saaaaaaaaaafe.
Lane Keep Assist pulls the car toward the undesired direction sometimes – when the camera doesn’t see the painted lines clearly or when the lines weren’t painted accurately. Does this kid have any idea how to handle a wheel dropping off the edge of the pavement?
Isn’t there an “assist” for that?
. . .
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