There are no easy way to make friends these days—and there's no easy way to win friends and influence people by sticking the image of a geegawed, dope-fiend mugshot of an acne-ridden #youth with artfully tossled hair, the dictionary definition of backpfeifengesicht—the face that cries out for a fist in it. (I am of the belief that every man should experience the feeling of punching someone in the face, and subsequently being punched in the face, at least once in their life. More than once may require a lifestyle change.) And there's no way to win friends with a title that cries out for an editor's proverbial red pen: " Future autonomous car technology caters to a lazy generation." Hey! Don't they call that "clickbaiting?" What was the first draft of that headline: "Read this to find out why you're an asshole?"
I read it, because I'm an asshole. And if you're not an asshole, you can rest assured that mine eyes have personally skimmed over at this half-boiled rant that reads like a knitting-circle newsletter editorial, Issue 174, the controversial opinion on sweater dresses. It's the sort of fearmongering about the rising scourge of autonomous cars, devoted to a blameful, guiless generation who doesn't deserve any more technology than what it distracts itself with—only, and here's the twist, it's written by a member of this generation!
"We're lazy. We're consumed by our smartphones. As a result, a car that drives itself will likely look appealing to college students because it takes away the 'tiresome' task of driving and gives you more time to like photos on Instagram."
Anthony Herta, in fact, does not have an Instagram, but does have a Vine, which is like an Instagram but with moving pictures that occasionally talk to you (I believe they're called "talkies," and Rudolph Valentino is not amused). Herta, who distances himself from his peers like the guy who goes to frat parties just to say to girls, "oh, I can't stand this sort of thing," is playing up the shtick of the cranky bastard who equates future technology with an inherent laziness endemic of some younger, entitled generation. Anyone who still perpetuates the hack cliché of millennials as lazy and entitled, of being on their phones, is worthless enough as a human being to deserve having his scrotum ripped off through his throat.
"I always felt like I was born too late," lamented Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, a film that simultaneously masturbates to nostalgia and then subtly, then emphatically, lambasts it for the ridiculous notion that it is. Not nostalgia, the liking of things, but the very essence of nostalgia itself—everything used to be better, and this generation sucks.
Oh yeah? This generation? The generation that enjoys penicillin and instant entertainment and unparalleled convenience and a lifespan long enough to make a 1700s street urchin think we were gods? The generation whose cars go faster, go farther, pollute less? The car which allowed Uncle Vernon to walk away from splatting into the side of a high school after too many Coors Lights during Super Bowl 38? The car which young Timmy bought with his paperboy money that can still blow the doors off his grand-pappy's Coronet, without pissing off the girl with whom he discovered third base?
I love cars. I love driving. There's nothing on this world that can match that love. (Somebody said that already.) But I am on the record as saying that I yearn for the pod car of tomorrow, the commuter snail that can take me up the 405 while I download a sex tape to my Google Glass while scratching my balls (both hands!) in the exact spot on my inner thigh that makes me fart the theme song to "Cheers." The wheezing vanguards of the automotive fourth estate proudly carrying this industry into the mid-1970s recoil at the thought of the self-driving car: "you'll take my Rally-Pak away from my cold, arthritic hands!" shout these venerable Charlton Hestons, before wrapping Gold Bond medicated cream over knuckles that smell like cheese.
But I love the idea of the self-driving car. No automotive enthusiast was born on the 405. No, the automotive enthusiast was born far away from traffic, and the smog-choked inner cities whose boundaries extend ever further, where they are on a sunlit road where the shadows of the trees dance in patterns across the asphalt, and there's not a single Camry or truck in front of us, and the road winds far away from home and we haven't the faintest idea how to get back. There are no freeways for us, the enthusiasts; no seven-lane boulevards or traffic signals. No commuting efficiencies to delay us in our pursuits of joy, of forgetfulness from this sordid and decaying world in which we young shall inhabit. Let the motorcyclists share in our desire for freedom and the open road, the common tropes in mechanical driving—two wheels, three wheels, four wheels, it's all the same and it all leads to one fixed point on the horizon of our minds.
Sometimes, I have this grand notion that motoring will return to its grand, romantic, pastoral tradition of the 1920s and 1930s, a time when only the affluent and aristocratic could afford to drive for pleasure, and driving one's own vehicle will be an activity enjoyed only by the truly devoted. Let the masses and the commuters ride quietly in their autonomous electric cars (and during the weekdays, the enthusiasts will be counted among them). We are driving enthusiasts, we are elegant petrolheads, and we know the mechanical thump of a gearshift, the gentle springing motion of a well-tuned clutch under our left feet. Some find escapism in horses, others in boats or private airplanes—we shall find our joy and pleasure in Jaguars and Porsches. We will maintain our vehicles to our individual tastes. We will find meaning, perhaps too much meaning, in our own expressionism. We will harken back to that bygone era, when—as David E. Davis once suggested—cars were seen as the zenith of human achievement, and the men and women who built them were heroes.
Maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't. But one thing certainly will: the people who think like Anthony Herta and Jim Ziegler and Jennifer Graham will be too busy shouting about the lazy, feckless, entitled millennials to notice them blowing right past in relevance. People will be left behind, oh yes. One of them will be Anthony Herta.