I’ve got this, but thank you

Diesel Power - - Contents - By KJ Jones

MY THOUGHTS this month are on au­toma­tion. I say “this month,” be­cause while al­most ev­ery­thing in our world is con­tin­u­ally be­ing au­to­mated in some way or an­other and sim­plic­ity is at the front of most peo­ple’s minds, I be­lieve I’m one of the last bas­tions of re­sis­tance to the push-a-but­ton-and-it’s-done move­ment.

Jok­ingly, I cite hav­ing trust is­sues as my rea­son for not giv­ing in. If you want things done a cer­tain way, you’re bet­ter off do­ing it your­self. Right? Of course, that’s not to­tally true. I have ut­most con­fi­dence in folks I count on: my wife and fam­ily, close friends, and, from an in-house per­spec­tive here at Diesel Power, the men and women who con­trib­ute their time and en­ergy to en­sur­ing a new is­sue makes it to mar­ket each month. They’ve got my back, as I have theirs. No doubt.

I guess it can al­most be con­sid­ered ironic (or just plain crazy?) that the pri­mary area I have big-time con­cern re­gard­ing au­toma­tion’s on­slaught is, well, the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor: cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks—yes, diesel-mo­ti­vated—that are all of our in­ter­est… and many of our liveli­hood.

While my con­cern is piqued by all of the “auto-” pre­fixed fea­tures and ac­ces­sories 2019’s diesel of­fer­ings are out­fit­ted with, my “wow mo­ment” came after driv­ing a few heav­ily as­sisted 2018 and 2019 rides and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing au­to­matic takeover first­hand.

I’m not go­ing to shout out spe­cific makes in this re­port, as all the Big Three and many other au­tomak­ers are guilty of try­ing to make driv­ing eas­ier in some way or an­other. Be it “Park­ing As­sist,” “Lane-Change Alert,” “Trailer-Back­ing Con­trol,” “Keep-Your-Dis­tance-In-Heavy-Traf­fic Throt­tle Mod­u­la­tion” (or what­ever it’s of­fi­cially called), or the one that has been all the rage for a few years now, “Au­tonomous Driv­ing,” the as­sists are ac­tu­ally com­put­er­con­trolled/de­pen­dent ve­hi­cle takeovers of sorts, and hon­estly, I just don’t dig them.

Be­ing from the old school of driv­ers (I’m li­censed since ’79—yes “OG” right here) who learned how to op­er­ate ve­hi­cles be­fore any of the high-tech stuff was even fath­omed, the no­tion that the driver must be in con­trol of the mo­tor ve­hi­cle at all times is in­grained in my brain. I mean, to this day I still don’t set cruise con­trol—ever (thanks to hav­ing se­vere hang­ing-throt­tle/run­away-truck para­noia)—and I’m just get­ting to a point in my driv­ing ca­reer where, in ad­di­tion to watch­ing mir­rors and turn­ing my head,

I’ll quickly glance at the screen in trucks equipped with rearview cam­eras just to en­sure I don’t crunch a bumper against what­ever is be­hind me.

That’s ac­tu­ally very con­ve­nient. How­ever, on more than sev­eral oc­ca­sions, I’ve watched much younger driv­ers keep their eyes laser locked on the screen through the en­tire par­al­lel-park­ing process, or sim­ply flip a switch and let the car do it for them, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that “this is the way it’s sup­posed to be done.” Trust me, it’s not.

I know some of you read­ing this do not cosign my thoughts about au­toma­tion’s in­creas­ing pres­ence in the ve­hi­cles we drive. And I’m con­fi­dent some of you are nod­ding your heads in agree­ment. Of course, that’s fine, as I’m not pre­sent­ing my views to make you think one way or an­other. As new-ve­hi­cle sea­son will be upon us by the time you read this, with ma­jor auto shows hap­pen­ing around the world and the lat­est bad-ass (op­er­a­tionally as­sisted in some fash­ion) rigs on dis­play at deal­er­ships ev­ery­where, I guess I’m lay­ing my thoughts out there to get them off my chest. And, as al­ways, I ap­pre­ci­ate your in­dul­gence.

We live in a take-it-or-leave-it world. That’s a fact. When it comes to driv­ing a mo­tor ve­hi­cle, I still pre­fer hav­ing 100 per­cent of its op­er­a­tion in my hands, foot, and con­trol. But as a car/truck guy who un­der­stands progress is nec­es­sary and a good thing, I re­ally do ac­knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­ate the bril­liant peo­ple who come up with the au­to­mated-au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy and are mov­ing things for­ward. If they ever reach a point where “fail-safe” stamps can be put on all of it, I’ll prob­a­bly join the rankand-file folks who use fea­tures that make driv­ing eas­ier. Well, a lit­tle sim­pler. And that’s a re­ally big “maybe” for now.

Con­sult­ing a ve­hi­cle’s rearview cam­era is about the far­thest I’ll go with us­ing fea­tures de­signed to help make driv­ing sim­pler. While these pho­tos are from the cam­era sys­tem in a gasser, they typ­i­cally all serve the same pur­pose—to en­sure you don’t rub bumpers with the ve­hi­cle be­hind you when you’re back­ing up or curb rash a wheel dur­ing par­al­lel park­ing ma­neu­vers.

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