Share the road

A Plea for Bicyclists to SHARE the Road

Share the road
Share the road

Dear Bicyclists,

You preach share the road, but there are so many elitist pricks in your group that think that means clear the road until you pass that you will continue to be treated with disrespect by the motoring community and provoke cyclist-motorist confrontations. SHARING the road is a two-way street, not an opportunity for a two-wheeled revolution. Recent run-ins between motorists and cyclists show the odds are in our favor whenever 3,000 lbs. of steel mass meets 20 lbs. of alloy metal. If you really want to improve motorist-cyclist relations, maybe you should start preaching the SHARE the road concept among your own ranks as well.

 

“SHARE the Road” Does Not Mean Take it Over

I had a run-in with a cyclist who was blocking the right lane this morning, and he would not yield it. Let me clarify the law for you by citing the CVC:

 

CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE
SECTION 21202

 

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed

less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction

at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand

curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following

situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle

proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a

private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but

not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles,

pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)

that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge,

subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this

section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for

a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the

lane.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway,

which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or

more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or

edge of that roadway as practicable.

 

To summarizer, especially for the “I bike therefore I am better than thou” jerk I ran across this morning, that means yes, you do need to keep right. No, you cannot take over a lane at whim. The roadway was wide enough to be SHARED, there were no obstructions preventing you from riding to the right, and you were not preparing to make a left hand turn. But as I stated before, you really have no interest in SHARING the road, do you?

 

These rules for SHARING the road can be found on several cycling sites as well as ones providing legal info. They all state the same rules for SHARING the road. Look for yourself:

https://calbike.org/bicycling-in-california/sharing-the-road/

http://la-bike.org/resources/california-bicycle-laws

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=21001-22000&file=21200-21212

 

The bottom line is if you want to be treated with respect, you have to earn it. A good start is losing the “holier than thou” attitude and to start practicing what you preach. I am more than happy to SHARE the road, but I’m not going to give it up entirely. You need to do the same.

Talk Like A Py-Rat!

Talk Like A Pirate Day! AARRRR!

Talk Like A Py-Rat
Talk Like A Py-Rat

Avast! Ye scurvy scum! It’s “Talk Like A Pirate Day!” If ye can’t be dialecting like a true prince of pillaging, prepare to be boarded, have yer women stolen and your treasure ravaged before ye are made to walk the plank and yer miserable soul spends the rest of eternity swabbing the decks an’ planning bad Monkees reunions with that cur Davy Jones!

To avoid this fate, click on the link below and get your “Yar!” on and ditch that sissified sniveling excuse of a name for one your feller bilge rats will respect and fear… or have yer throat cut in yer sleep. Aye, the choice is yers, but choose wisely, Sleepy Jean, or you’ll find yer a Steppin’ Stone at the bottom of the sea.

My pirate name is:

A pirate’s life isn’t easy; it takes a tough person. That’s okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Old Faithful Area, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Photography – July 4, 2014

July 4th marked our final day in Yellowstone National Park. While we had made it out to see Old Faithful earlier in the week, we too a break from seeing geysers to make sure we saw the rest of the park and the Grand Tetons. Now that we had “glimpsed it all,” we headed back to cover what we missed in the Old Faithful area. A week is just not enough time to do Yellowstone, the world’s first national park,  justice.

In the Old Faithful Geyser area, are Riverside Geyser and Morning Glory Spring, a spring that many heralded as one of the most beautiful in the park–until the vents at the bottom of the spring became clogged with debris thrown in by many moronic tourists in the decades before us. The obstructions have changed the dynamics of the pool, including the temperature, so the color has shifted. Park staff have yet to figure out how to remove the debris without further damaging the spring.It’s truly a shame.

Morning Glory Spring is not the only feature to suffer at the hands of tourists, either. Old Faithful has had a large chunk of it’s once prominent crown removed by souvenir hunting visitors. Minute Geyser, which at one time was very close to the main road through the park, but the road has since been relocated used to spout up to 50 feet as often as the name implies, but rocks tossed in by thoughtless visitors plugged the vent forcing the water to find an alternate outlet that now only reaches 4 feet, and does not occur nearly as often. Earlier this month, despite a ban on drones in national parks, a selfish tourist crashed his illegally piloted device into Grand Prismatic Spring.

I hope by sharing these photos, you will also see how truly beautiful, unique, and amazing Yellowstone National Park is, so when you plan your own trip, you’ll treat it, and it’s features with the care and respect they deserve.

The gallery below contains the best images from our final day in Yellowstone National park. The slideshow should start automatically, if you see an image you like, you  can mouse over it to show the parts that don’t display in the viewer, or you can click on it and the full image will pop up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Photography – July 3, 2014

So we had to skip July 2nd and go straight to July 3rd as a cold I had been battling since Sunday finally got the better of me and left me spending the day in bed. At the time, I thought nothing is more painful than having to take a sick day while on vacation! Then while doing some fact checking , I stumbled across this story that occurred yesterday: “Child, 8, Falls to Death in Yellowstone Canyon.” I’d gladly spend my whole vacation sick rather than have a family have to end their vacation like that. My condolences to the family. With much less enthusiasm than I have had in my other posts, here are my pics that include the area where the girl fell.

On this leg of the journey we cut across the middle of the park on Norris Canyon Road and then headed south on the Grand Loop to the Grand Canyone of the Yellowstone to start our day. We then made our way around the Grand loop counterclockwise and out to the north gate to end our day with dinner in Gardiner, MT.

The below gallery contains the best images captured on our fourth day in Yellowstone National Park. The slideshow should start automatically, if you see an image you like, you  can mouse over it to show the parts that don’t display in the viewer, or you can click on it and the full image will pop up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Grand Tetons reflecting on Jackson Lake, Grand Tetons National Park

Grand Tetons – July 1, 2014

For today’s post, we take a break from Yellowstone, and venture southeast from the world’s first national park, and head to Grand Tetons National Park. We drove south along U.S. 191, stopping for photo opps along the way until we reached Jackson, WY.

The below gallery contains the best images from our visit. The slideshow should start automatically, if you see an image you like, you  can mouse over it to show the parts that don’t display in the viewer, or you can click on it and the full image will pop up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Grand Prismatic Spring.

Yellowstone – June 29, 2014

This summer’s adventure was a trip to Yellowstone. On our first day we traveled south from Madison Junction along the west side of the loops making it as far as southeast as Old Faithful with stops at Firehole Canyon Falls, Lower and Midway Geyser Basins, Firehole Lake Drive, Upper Geyser Basin and Biscuit Geyser Basin.

The below gallery contains the best images captured on our first full day in Yellowstone National Park. The slideshow should start automatically, if you see an image you like, you  can mouse over it to show the parts that don’t display in the viewer, or you can click on it and the full image will pop up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

 

Is Redskins The New Double Standard?

Redskins? Niggers? This Cracker Is Tired of the Double Standard The controversy over the Washington Redskins name has me baffled. Maybe I'm blinded by the white, but I just don't see the term redskin as offensive. At least, not in the same way as I see the word nigger as offensive. Now that's a term that embarrasses me as I think of how it was used to keep the blackskins in check. What? You don't like the term blackskins either? Seriously? Well, let this whiteskin tell you a little story, and maybe you'll see where I'm coming from and maybe even reconsider your stance on the 'Skins.   I've tried my best to raise my son as color blind to people's skin tones as possible. With an aunt from the Philippines, an uncle who is half black, a girlfriend who is Chinese and Japanese, and his mother's side of the family being Jewish, there's not a lot of room for ethnic slurs in our family. In addition, he is growing up in a neighborhood that has a good mix of ethnicities despite being predominantly white. When we signed him up for Cub Scouts, the initial group of kids was made up of two black boys, a Filipino, an Hispanic, and five white boys.  Before my son had learned the names of all the boys, he needed a way to distinguish them from one another when he told us stories about his interactions with them. Keeping in mind he had no previously ingrained descriptors for these boys, all on his own he would refer to the Filipino as the "brownskinned boy" and the black kids as the "blackskinned boys." Now, before you jump to conclusions, he did not learn this from us. If he had learned terms from his parents, they would have simply been as our politically correct society dictates, but we never had the discussion because we didn't want to make races stand out to him. I was not comfortable with these descriptors, and struggled with whether or not to correct him with the PC versions, but decided to let innocence run its course. I was glad I did. One night, I witnessed something remarkably interesting. The two black boys, the Filipino, the Hispanic and one of the white boys were involved in an activity, and my son wanted to tell us something about one of the boys. To distinguish which one he was talking about, he referred to him as the "white skinned boy." That's when I realized I successfully raised my child independent of color prejudices. There was no malice in his words. In every case he used these terms, he was merely describing the boy he wanted to identify with the most outstanding feature that would identify him the quickest. We use the same method to describe people with hair color, why not skin color? So, unless you are offended by your own skin color, why is Redskin so offensive?  Apparently, a fair number of Navajos don't have a problem with the Redskins name either, despite what Amanda Blackhorse would have you believe. On the Navajo reservation, Red Mesa High School has the Redskins as their mascot right now. If this name is truly so offensive, why not start with changing it in your own backyard? Even if you do find it offensive, I don't believe Redskin was intended to be a derogatory terms as the terms for other races coined in roughly the same era were, and for good reason. The Redskins were an indigenous free people who fought fiercely to keep their lands. They weren't a race that was brought here as property to do the white man's bidding. Nor were they like the Chinese, aka Chinks, who were viewed as invaders themselves in the white man's newly won west. No, unlike the others, Redskin was the name we gave to the people we feared most in the west. With fear comes respect. That respect is something no other people of color had achieved in this land for that time period. These were not a people that could be kept in check by merely reminding them of their lowly status to keep them "in their place"—that wouldn't come until after they were broken and the last of their people were moved to reservations.  No, Redskin is a respectful term earned by the fierce warriors who defended their lands. And just as I have taught my son that the color of one's skin is nothing more than a descriptive trait, I have never thought of the Redskin as anything more than that myself. Redskins are a people of red skin. True they are about as red as I am white, but it's hard to put an exact color to skin tones. The red skinned people also happen to be some of the fiercest warriors the white man has ever faced, so therefore, the Redskins ARE fierce warriors. That's a damn good name for a sports franchise. I don't see the problem with it at all. And apparently neither does Red Mesa high School. So if it's good enough for a Navajo school, why isn't it good enough for a football team? Please tell me it's not going to be another case similar to where only blacks are able to use the word nigger when referring to each other. Because if it's okay for one class to refer to other members of that same class by any derogatory term that has been used to describe that class, than let me join in the fun by telling you what a bunch of assholes you are. I know I'm an asshole sometimes, and you're proving by setting this double standard that you're an asshole. That makes it one asshole calling another asshole an asshole, so it's all good, right homey? Glad we're agreed! 'Sup my asshole?  Now, let's talk about getting Cracker Jack and White Bread banned from store shelves…
Redskins is about as offensive as blonde hairs.

The controversy over the Washington Redskins name has me baffled, and I fear, has us heading to a new racial double standard. Maybe I’m blinded by the white, but to make matters even more confusing, I just don’t see the term redskin as offensive. At least, not in the same way as I see the aberration “nigger” as offensive. Now that’s a term that embarrasses me as I think of how it was used to keep the blackskins in check.

What?

You don’t like the term blackskins either?

Seriously?

Well, let this whiteskin tell you a little story, and maybe you’ll see where I’m coming from and maybe even reconsider your stance on the ‘Skins.

I’ve tried my best to raise my son as color blind to people’s skin tones as possible. With an aunt from the Philippines, an uncle who is half black, a girlfriend who is Chinese and Japanese, and his mother’s side of the family being Jewish, there’s not a lot of room for ethnic slurs in our family. In addition, he is growing up in a neighborhood that has a fairly diverse mix of ethnicities despite being predominantly white. When we signed him up for Cub Scouts, the initial group of kids was made up of two black boys, a Filipino, an Hispanic, and five white boys. Could it have been more diverse? Yes. But there was no lack of color here.

Before my son had learned the names of all the boys, he needed a way to distinguish them from one another when he told us stories about his interactions with them. Keeping in mind he had no previously ingrained descriptors for these boys, all on his own he would refer to the Filipino as the “brownskinned boy” and the black kids as the “blackskinned boys.” Now, before you jump to conclusions, he did not learn this from us. If he had learned terms from his parents, they would have simply been as our politically correct society dictates, but we never had the discussion because we didn’t want to make races stand out to him. I was not comfortable with these descriptors, and struggled with whether or not to correct him with the PC versions, but decided to let innocence run its course. I was glad I did.

Now We’re Getting To The Meat And Redskin Potatoes

One night, I witnessed something remarkably interesting. The two black boys, the Filipino, the Hispanic and one of the white boys were involved in an activity, and my son wanted to tell us something about one of the boys. To distinguish which one he was talking about, he referred to him as the “white skinned boy.” That’s when I realized I successfully raised my child independent of color prejudices.
There was no malice in his words. In every case he used these terms, he was merely describing the boy he wanted to identify with the most outstanding feature that would identify him the quickest. We use the same method to describe people with hair color, why not skin color? I don’t get offended when I am called “Blondie.” So, unless you are offended by your own skin color, why is Redskin so offensive?

Not All Redskins Are Bad

Apparently, a fair number of Navajos don’t have a problem with the Redskins name either, despite what Amanda Blackhorse would have you believe. On the Navajo reservation, Red Mesa High School has the Redskins as their mascot right now. If this name is truly so offensive, why not start with changing it in your own backyard?

Even if you do find it offensive, I don’t believe Redskin was intended to be a derogatory term as the slurs for other races coined in roughly the same era were, and for good reason. The Redskins were indigenous free peoples who fought fiercely to keep their lands. They weren’t a race brought here as “property” to do the white man’s bidding. Nor were they like the Chinese, who were labeled as “Chinks,” who were viewed as invaders themselves in the white man’s newly won west.

No, unlike the others, Redskin was the name we gave to the people we feared most in the west. With fear comes respect. That respect is something no other people of color had achieved in this land for that time period. These were not a people that could be kept in check by merely reminding them of their lowly status to keep them “in their place”—that wouldn’t come until after they were broken and the last of their people were moved to reservations.

Instead, Redskin is a respectful term earned by the fierce warriors who defended their lands against invading whites. And just as I have taught my son that the color of one’s skin is nothing more than a descriptive trait, I have never thought of the Redskin as anything more than that myself. Redskins are simply a people of red skin. True they are about as red as I am white, but it’s hard to put an exact color to skin tones. The red skinned people also happen to be some of the fiercest warriors the white man has ever faced, so therefore, the Redskins ARE fierce warriors. That’s a damn good name for a sports franchise. I don’t see the problem with that. And apparently neither does Red Mesa High School.

 

Time To Thicken Up That Redskin

So if it’s good enough for a Navajo school, why isn’t it good enough for a football team? Please tell me it’s not going to be another case similar to where only black people are able to use the slur “nigger” when referring to each other. Because, if it’s okay for one class to refer to other members of that same class by any derogatory term that has been used to describe that class, than let me join in the fun by telling you what a bunch of assholes you are. I know I’m an asshole sometimes, and you’re proving by setting this double standard that you’re an asshole at times as well. That makes it one asshole calling another asshole an asshole, so it’s all good, right homey? Glad we’re agreed! ‘Sup my asshole?

Now, let’s talk about getting Cracker Jack and White Bread banned from store shelves. Otherwise, let’s thicken our skins a little bit and move on, be they black, white or Redskins.

VW illustrates how dangerous texting while driving can be.

Texting While Driving: VW Drives The Message Home

VW illustrates how dangerous texting while driving can be.
Texting While Driving: Volkswagen drives the point home.

Volkswagen shows just how dangerous texting while driving can be by demonstrating to a crowded movie theater just how much can be missed in a blink of an eye by mixing high tech cellular gadgetry with big screen cinematography.

A New Batch Of Drivers Are Tempted By Texting While Driving

Ah June. The month that has more neophyte drivers hitting the streets than any other—all armed with mobile devices connected to excited friends who want to know how it feels to finally have a license supplying a never ending barrage of texting while driving temptation. As the newly licensed fledglings begin to venture ever further from their nests, they start making their way to their summer jobs, a day at the beach or lake, or head to a party via streets near you. You see them and their clumsy flapping on the road. They turn right in front of you because they haven’t learned to judge speed and distance yet. They stop between lanes trying to decide if they should go left or right. You hear the increase in the number of squealing tires at night. Most are burnouts as they show off for their friends, but more than you care to count leave you wait for the potential cacophony of rapidly compressing metal, plastic and glass that may follow. Isn’t June grand?

We try so hard to keep them safe. We do everything we can to avoid hearing that gut wrenching sound. We enroll them in driver’s ed. We make sure the wear their seatbelts. And we caution against speeding and drunk driving. In addition to our own warnings against speeding and drunk driving, we have nanny controls to prevent speeding and organizations like MADD and SADD to spread the gospel against drunk driving. But how much time do we spend talking to them about the act of driving itself? There’s no nanny control for texting while driving unless you take away their phone, but you want to be able to reach them. More importantly, they may need to reach you. Yet you still need to convince them of the importance of paying attention to the road every second they are behind the wheel and just how dangerous texting while driving can be.

There are already too many other distractions for a driver who has yet to find the best position to effectively drive a car from. (Hint: It’s not reclining so far back you’re practically sitting in the back seat and can’t see over the hood). When I was learning to drive, distractions were pretty much limited to the AM/FM radio, 8-track tape player, my friends, and the occasional bikini clad hottie walking near the beach. Nowadays, kids have all that, plus dual climate controls, satellite radio, CD-changers, mp3 players, navigation systems, speaker phone, and texting devices. Getting them to believe any of these things let alone texting while driving can impair their reaction time is a challenge. Granted, the average teenager can whoop my ass in any video game requiring more input than a black joystick with a red fire button offers, so it’s understandable that young adults today are even more prone to blow off their elders than we ever did when we were their age, especially when it comes to warning about multi-tasking and texting while driving. They know their hand-eye coordination is so much greater than ours, how can they possibly take us seriously?

Volkswagen Shows Movie Goers The Danger of Texting While Driving

But maybe if that warning about texting behind the wheel was presented in terms they could understand. That’s what Volkswagen is hoping to accomplish with a PSA they recently released showing just how quickly things can go wrong while driving. The PSA was shown in a theater in Hong Kong where a special device was employed that could ping every cell phone in the theater at the same moment. The film rolled depicting a car being driven down the road. A few seconds into the clip, the device was activated and as everyone looked down to check their message, the car crashed. They took their eyes off the screen for an instant and missed what happened that fast. This is exactly what could happen when texting while driving, not just to your new driver, but to anyone. It’s powerful stuff, and kudos to VW for putting it together.

Of course, VW can’t make your kids watch the video, nor can they make sure they get the point that texting while driving is bad. That’s up to you. They provided a great tool, now it’s up to you to use it. As your kids kick off their summer, and you pile on the safety advice about driving sober and how speeding kills to prepare them for a night of safe fun, remember to also prepare them for those split seconds that occur as they travel to their destinations and warn them about texting while driving. You successfully got them to driving age, now try and keep them around long enough to have kids of their own.

IMG_4447

Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept Under the Magnifying Glass

Ford allowed its C-Max Solar Energi concept to be placed under the magnifying glass, literally.

IMG_4447

On May 29, 2014, the Blue Oval manufacturer held a media luncheon and Q&A session at their Irvine Showroom to showcase the Ford C-Max Solar Energi concept vehicle and discuss the “future of electrification.”

First, let me point out that Ford is very upfront about this being a concept in the strongest definition of the word. This is no pre-production mockup to tease what may be showing up on next year’s auto show circuit, merely a design exercise to see what could be done to push today’s technology into tomorrow, albeit a somewhat distant tomorrow. That’s not to say that the C-Max Solar Energi concept isn’t a functional vehicle. It is still a fully functional Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. It just as the extra benefit of having a solar panel array on its roof to aid in charging.

Not terribly exciting technology. Solar panels are nothing new, and we know that in limited arrays they are great for low voltage applications, and given enough acreage, have been successfully used by utility companies to fortify the grid. The problem is, there isn’t that much acreage available on the body of a car, so solar panels alone don’t offer much in the way of a charge for an electric vehicle—about 3 miles worth of driving in the C-Max Solar Energi depending on how much sunshine is available in your area on a clear day. Not a practical solution for the average commuter and Ford knows it. The real design study behind the C-Max Solar Energi concept and the problem Ford is trying to solve is how to improve the efficiency of harnessing that sunshine into a useful amount of energy. Here’s where the Solar Energi concept literally gets put under the magnifying glass.

 IMG_4446Ever used a magnifying glass to burn ants when you were a kid? That same intense dose of supercharged sunshine that sent those little six-legged picnic bandits to the great anthill in the sky is being used to improve the intensity of the sun hitting those solar panels adorning the C-Max roofline. To achieve this, engineers have designed a carport type structure with a roof that is basically a large magnifying glass, Ford calls it the “concentrator.” The same concept is used in solar farms where parabolic mirrors reflect the sun’s rays from every point on the surface of the mirror into a collector at the focal point. These mirrors, however, track the position of the sun and adjust accordingly to maximize the available sunlight. A similar system for a home carport would be cost prohibitive so how do you make sure you are getting the maximum benefit of the sun without repositioning the magnifying glass? Move the car.

Why install additional electric motors into a carport roof when there is already an electric motor installed in your car? This is exactly what Ford did to adjust for the position of the sun as it made its way across the sky. Configuring the concentrator in an east-west direction, the C-Max Solar Energi starts out on the west side of the car port to catch the sun’s rays as they angle in from the east. As the sun rises, the C-Max Solar Energi literally inches its way westward an inch at a time until it arrives on the east side of the concentrator as the sun sinks in the west. Clever.

Of course, there are still other variables in this scenario. The sun doesn’t follow the same path across the sky, varying its path across the sky toward the north during summer in the northern hemisphere and winding south during the winter, so the concentrator would need to correct its angle for this as well. And what about a vehicle that automatically repositions itself? Sure it only moves an inch at a time, but it’s a silent inch. I can’t tell you how many of the neighbor’s cats nine lives have been spent narrowly escaping from underneath a tire where it was enjoying the shade and a little respite from the summer sun. Without the warning of an exhaust note, there’s no cue for Mr. Whiskers to scamper. I imagine it would be pretty horrible if he was partially pinned as the vehicle inched over his paw or tail and with no one around to hear his cries, had the life squeezed out of the remaining parts of his body one inch at a time. Ew. And I don’t even like cats.

Those problems aside, what is intriguing about all of this is imagining being able to own and drive a vehicle off the grid. No fueling up, no plugging in, just free energy from the sun. Now take this same technology and meld it with a car an enthusiast could appreciate, something along the lines of the electric Tesla Roadster, or the hybrid Porsche 917 Spyder. Or how about adding it to a luxury car like the Cadillac ELR or a Lexus hybrid SUV. For day to day commutes, vehicles could be emission free, only relying on fuel for longer road trips or rainy days. I’m excited, and hope others will see what Ford has accomplished and pitch in to take this technology to the next level. Cars would no longer be the poster child of eco irresponsibility, and there would once again be room for those who prefer performance and luxury over gadgets and fuel economy, and that’s a world I’d gladly welcome… with or without Mr. Whiskers.

By Vernon Heywood

Google Self Driving Car, Ready or Not

Google Self Driving Car
Are you ready to be driven in Google’s self driving car?

Today the Google Self Driving Car Project posted a video called “First Drive,” showing a small group of people who are among the first people outside of Google to experience a car that drives itself. What was rolled out of the trailer looked something along the lines of a cross between a Fiat 500 and a Smart For Two with a blender mounted on top, and prompted one participant to exclaim, “Isn’t that cute?” As any car aficionado will tell you, cute is not the adjective we hope to hear when describing the physical representation of our psycho-mechanical lust. But let’s face it, without a steering wheel, Google’s automated car wasn’t designed for us.

So who is it designed for? Commuters. Admit it, rush hour is not the place for driving enthusiasts. Bumper to bumper traffic, just gets the blood pressure up, not the oil pressure. Imagine a commute where you could finalize a work presentation, type up your morning blog post, enjoy a video chat with your kids, or snooze! I’ve commuted by train and see the Google Self Driving car as another mode of transportation offering everything that commuting by train offers, only better. The Google automated car would remove the problem of how to get to and from the train station on either end of the commute by taking you from your home directly to your office, restaurant or shopping center without having to wait to transfer to a bus, catch a cab, or another train. Your commute time would improve, and the time spent commuting could be more productive (or restful) without having to transfer or wait for connections.

As much as I hate to admit it, traffic would probably improve as well. It’s highly unlikely the Googlemobile is going to weave in and out of traffic cutting people off and causing a chain reaction of brake lights behind it just to gain half a car length over its previous position. A group of cars all moving at the same pace will move more efficiently than a group of cars all moving and different speeds, so once again there will be less honking, and a lot less braking to compensate for the oil and water mixture of the overzealous and overly timid drivers begrudgingly sharing the road today. It sounds Utopian, and that’s what scares me.

Never mind the fact that I like to drive, and prefer to be in charge of my own destiny, not having a machine make those decisions for me. Machines break, computers crash, software has bugs, and networks get hacked. The last place I want to be is in or on a highway near one of these cars when these things start to go wrong. We could isolate them to their own roads, but then they are no better than a glorified commuter train. No, to make them worthwhile, they have to have the same road access and function as a car. And perhaps that’s the answer. Instead of removing the steering wheel, perhaps these cars should offer their self-driving feature as an option instead. This would allow for human over ride if things did start to go buggy, and aid in getting the car off the road. After all, how do you steer a car with no steering wheel if it has to be pushed?

There is a lot of potential here, though, and kudos to Google for advancing the technology this far. But there are a lot of questions left to be answered before you’ll get me into one. I’m not ready to relinquish my driver’s seat to a machine just yet. So, I’ll take the wheel, thank you, along with my manual transmission, and hold onto them myself, at least until you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

By Vernon Heywood

Writer, Photographer, SEO Consultant