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Bill Stott has a bee under his bonnet…

October 24, 2017 in General

© Bill Stott

Another rant from our esteemed Chair, Bill Stott:

It’s difficult to argue against electric cars without sounding like Jeremy Clarkson. Mind you, quite apart from punching the odd producer, he did make some interesting observations about these short- range, expensive vehicles some time ago.

Yes, electric cars in themselves are greener than petrol and certainly diesel cars. They have nice, touchy-feely names like “Leaf” [Nissan]. However, the environmental cost of the mining the essentials – like lithium – for car batteries is huge ,and environmentally very dirty, apparently.

I wonder if the Smuggs at No 37 [they have solar panels too] ever think about that as they set off on a necessarily fairly short journey [range is around 230 miles] No, they probably don’t. But at 199 miles they’ll be desperately trying to find a re-charging point, which are few and far between and take ages. A full charge requires an overnight stay.

I suppose the half and half hybrid cars represent a solution of sorts, but their batteries are dirty to produce as well.

Of course, as technology advances, electric cars will eventually become the norm with increased ranges and, who knows, much speedier recharging points on every street corner. But we’re a long way from that right now and Volvo’s declaration that they will be making only electric cars by 2030 seems very optimistic.

But I’m getting off track here. My Main Rant is against Driverless Cars. What on earth is wrong with people who like the idea ? Don’t they LIKE driving ? Don’t they like the way their car feels and sounds and handles ?

Well maybe not if they’ve got one of those apologetic little things like the Suzuki Wagon R, or God forbid, a Yaris. If you’re ever held up at 30mph in a 60mph area, it’ll be by a Yaris. I know, I know, none of that matters if you’re stuck in an M6 tailback.

One of the alleged advantages of driverless cars is that freed from the business of actually controlling the vehicle, you’d be able to get on with work. Really ? Wouldn’t you have to be on instant stand-by to regain manual control just in case the Artificial Intelligence element threw a wobbler ?

I simply do not understand the attraction of driverless cars. I love driving. I wouldn’t love driving if I had a Leaf or a Wagon R or a Yaris. In fact the way many human drivers behave in those dreadful vehicles, suggests that they should be compulsorily driverless. You often see cars like the Yaris on motorways in the inside lane following lorries. Lorry Followers. I sometimes wonder if they go all the way to the depot behind Bradshaw’s Grommets of Doncaster.

If I had a driverless car, what would I DO ? Gaze out of the window at certain parts of Birkenhead ? Read a book ? Have a nod ? But I don’t want to do any of those things. I want to DRIVE. I want to gauge braking distances, anticipate gaps [in front of a Yaris], press the loud pedal and feel and hear the response.

I can’t do that in a driverless or an electric car, although a certain Mr Musk does offer an electric one at enormous cost which will do 0-60 in three seconds. Then it runs out of juice.

I think I just have to face it. I’m an automotive dinosaur. I’ve got a 17 year old 4litre Jaguar which drinks petrol but goes like stink. Its beautifully made, very well balanced, responsive and a pleasure to drive. If it was driverless, it would still be very nice to sit in, but I’d be bored silly after a few miles.

To be fair though, when I’m driving my 4 litre beast, especially on motorways at 70mph plus [and a bit more in all honesty], I am very aware of what dangerous places motorways are; lumps of metal with very soft bits inside zooming along at approach speeds of 140mph at least, and of how many thoughtless, inadequate and stupid drivers there are out there. BMW drivers have been overtaken by Audi drivers in the arrogance stakes. Then there are the nitwits who don’t know what mirrors are for and blithely change lanes without signalling. Whilst texting.

So logic suggests that taking responsibility out of the human’s hands and passing it to a robot would make driving safer. I have to admit that it probably would. It would also make car travel a whole lot slower. Driverless cars would make Suzuki Wagon R drivers of us all. We’d all become Yarisites. Everything would be safe. Risk would be eliminated and human judgment redundant.

Because I’m a dinosaur, I simply cannot imagine a motoring world where there are no Jaguars, Maseratis, Alfas, Astons, Bentleys etc., etc…..the list goes on. They’d all disappear to be replaced by anonymous wheeled boxes which would be differentiated in price by whether they had an on-board Jacuzzi or not.

What is life without risk? What is life without control? Human control.

Dull. That’s what it would be. Risk helps you feel alive. Risk helps keep your brain active. Having to assess risk certainly does that.

I know I’m on the losing side of this argument though and I’m grateful that I’m old enough never to be part of a world where I’d climb into my driverless car and read War and Peace on the way to Swanage. Or Goole. [Thinks ; Are the residents of Goole called Goolies ?]

Bill Stott.

 

3 responses to Bill Stott has a bee under his bonnet…

  1. Agreeing with all that you have to say on driverless cars (and probably War & Peace too – tell me what happens after p3). But I’m afraid I part company over electric cars. I’m ready to welcome these in. They can’t be that bad, can they? Presumably no worse than driving a milk-float, and with fewer stops. Ok, we are the Smuggs (have solar panels on the roof and wear sandals made from the trays that supermarket vegetables come in). My only concern is that the present provision of charging-points may necessitate some change of plan to holiday routes and preferred destinations. Instead of futtering round the back roads (yes, that’s us in front of you) in the wildest of wilds, we may need to settle on a straight run up and down the M!, booking in for a week in the Days Inn at Watford Gap, with a night maybe at the more scenic South Mimms Ramada. Can’t wait to get started.

  2. Well yes, you have a point I suppose. I just think that electric cars have been advertised and hyped before their time. Performance-wise, they are a bit weedy, are they not ? And tremendously expensive. Maybe, like early aircraft, they should come with a warning sticker, i.e., “Tends to crash a lot”, or in the case of electric cars, ” Won’t go very far.” And electric car batteries are very dirty to produce too. And slow, slow, slow to charge. Tedious, despite the hedonistic attractions of South Mimms.

  3. Yarises following lorries in the inside lane. Haha and so true. I love driving my ’96 Volvo 850 T5R. Dangerously fast. But most of the time I’m inching along somewhere deep in traffic. For 80mph plus is has to be the M25 at 3am on a Monday morning. And that’s when I get caught. Ee-aw…ee-aw…

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