Enthusiasts should not fear the future

Autonomous cars – those two little words have sent shivers down the spines of enthusiasts the world over, evoking visions of steering-wheel-free, de-pedaled transportation bubbles with the driving dynamics of a tablet on wheels. But fear not, my motor-minded brethren, there’s always hope. The latest reassurance comes from Honda, the same company that gave us the NSX and the Type R badge. Mitsuru Kariya, Honda’s head engineer for the Civic, recently spoke on the issue with Car Buzz at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, and by the sound of it, everything is gonna be just fine.

“We surely believe in autonomous driving. It will come, definitely. But we believe, and we hope, that there will always remain a certain partition of driving by yourself,” he told the publication.

Kariya-san didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “partition,” but its clear that human operation is still a priority for the Japanese automaker. The most recent evidence of this is the release of the new Civic Type R prototype, a five-door hatchback aimed squarely at folks who enjoy taking control of the wheel. At the same time, Honda is actively developing self-driving technology that could potentially allow it to produce fully autonomous cars sometime in the future.

Really, this is all about catering to both camps – those who prefer the ease and convenience of a robo-mobile, and those who prefer the engagement and fun of a manual driver. But what other factors are involved here?

Continue reading for the full story.

Why It Matters

As far as autonomous cars are concerned, a lot of what happens in the next few decades depends on the laws and regulations that are created. Implementation of these technologies is still a bit of a question mark, and in the crossover between human-driven cars, semi-autonomous cars, and fully autonomous cars, things will probably get pretty messy.

In fact, we’re already starting to see it, most notably with a series of high-profile crashes linked to Tesla’s Autopilot feature making headlines over the summer. I covered the crashes and what they really mean here, but the short summary is this – these sorts of things are pretty much unavoidable at this point.

So really, the biggest culprit in the push for autonomous cars is the consumer.

Safety issues aside, it should be remembered who is ultimately responsible for the development of autonomous driving systems. Pointing fingers is easy, but for the folks behind the scenes (engineers like Mitsuru Kariya, for example), there’s no hidden “agenda.” The true motivation here is an educated guess at future market pressures – you don’t wanna be the last one to the autonomous party if that’s what the consumers are demanding, and since this tech takes a long time to create, development needs to start immediately.

So really, the biggest culprit in the push for autonomous cars is the consumer. Getting whisked off to work in your own personal taxi sounds great, doesn’t it? Throw in the promise of greater safety and reduced human idiocy, and it all starts to make a whole lot of sense.

So yes, there will be plenty of folks who want autonomous cars, and that makes the tech inevitable. But you gotta remember that at the same time, there will be plenty of folks who prefer to drive a car themselves, maybe attacking a deserted canyon two-lane or some coastal highway. I don’t see the enthusiast ever truly dying out, and as long as folks like you and I keep demanding (and buying) fun-to-drive cars, companies like Honda will keep on making them.

Now we just need a commitment to manual transmissions, and we’ll be all set.

Read our full review on the 2016 Honda Civic Type R Concept here.

Source: Car Buzz

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