The Future Auto Enthusiast
Passion can’t be created or destroyed, only transformedby Jonathan Lopez, on
Change can be scary. The familiar becomes alien, the things we rely on are no longer there, and routines are thrown out of whack. But with every big change comes opportunity, and even though the old guard of auto enthusiasts sees the latest industry trends and governmental crackdowns as evidence that car culture as we know isn’t long for this world, I’m hopeful. What we’re witnessing isn’t the destruction of the lifestyle we know and love, but rather its transformation.
I’ll explain, but first, I’d like to invite representatives from each of the established enthusiast tribes to join me here at the virtual table. I’ll start with the muscle car guys, the lead-sled lovers who see no replacement for displacement. Next, I’d like to bring in the import mob, where high-tech tuning reigns supreme. Then there’s the polished show and shine crowd, followed by the classic collectors. And of course, I can’t forget the race-prepped adrenaline junkies.
Now that we’re all here, I’ll start by acknowledging the obvious – each of our respective car cultures isn’t what it used to be. Miles per gallon trumps miles per hour, autonomous systems threaten our spot behind the wheel, internal combustion is spurned at every opportunity, and cars are quickly becoming just another appliance. Looks like trouble, right?
Wrong. The fact you’re reading these words is proof enough that automotive enthusiasm is alive and well, and even though car culture is indeed changing, there’s no reason to fear the future.
In this piece, I took a look at my crystal ball and outlined four possible evolutions of the automotive devotee, and why each should be considered your friend, not your enemy.
Continue reading to learn more about the future of auto enthusiasts.
The MPG Nerd
Hypermilers – they’re already here, and they aren’t going away; in fact, their numbers are growing. Tricks of the trade include low-rolling resistance tires, feathery throttle inputs, and a proclivity for flat terrain. To them, a tank of gas stretches beyond borders and time zones. Victory lies in uninterrupted momentum, while defeat is measured in gallons.
Understandably, traditional auto enthusiasts will scoff at the slow and steady pace of the MGP nerd. “These people are the problem,” you might say.
I disagree. The cold hard truth is that the dino juice we love won’t last forever, and while hypermilers might seem a bit strange to you and me, their obsession with maximum bang for the buck will keep the internal combustion engine running strong far beyond its original life expectancy. Their tricks will keep the fuel supplies high, and even give us performance lovers the means to eke out a few more miles without hurting the 0-to-60. They are our allies, even though a burnout will probably make ‘em cry.
Electric Performance Fanatics
The batteries are invading. Whether it’s Formula E, or the Drive eO PP03 that took the win at Pikes Peak last year, or a Tesla Model S in Ludicrous mode, electric performance is on the rise, and the proponents of traditional speed machines have every right to be nervous – that is, if they’re slower.
Here’s the thing about racing – it doesn’t matter if your car sounds like an overgrown blender. As long as you cross that finish line first, you get the glory. It’s as simple as that.
With that in mind, more competition should always be welcome, no matter what form it may take. Sure, the electric performance fanatics will probably hog all the outlets at the track, but if they push the field to break lap records, then it’s well worth it.
The Self-Driving AI Geek
Let’s face it – most drivers are complete crap. In fact, it’s worse than that – a large percentage of the folks on the road today present a very real danger to themselves and those around them. Whether they’re distracted, intoxicated, or just straight up oblivious to the realities of piloting an automobile, bad drivers can ruin any stretch of pavement for the rest of us.
If you take a step back, it makes total sense. The vast majority of people out there don’t view driving with the same enthusiasm as you and I. They don’t approach it with the same seriousness. To the masses, driving is a chore, a means to an end.
That’s what makes fully autonomous vehicles so enticing. Not only does the technology promise to make driving safer, but it frees the individual from the tedium of commuting. On the whole, it should be a good thing.
Unfortunately, those of us who actually like to drive are caught in the middle, and in the race to the lowest common denominator, what happens to the fully manual automobile?
Here’s how I see it – driverless cars are indeed on the rise, but the old-school alternatives aren’t going anywhere. Autonomous technology is aimed primarily at congested urban areas, not twisty back roads, and as long folks enjoy rowing their own and stringing together a series of hairpins, that’s not gonna change. So stop worrying.
Plus, with the rise of the machines, we’ll begin to see a new type of enthusiast emerge – the self-driving AI geek. Armed with a laptop and penchant for coding, the AI geek probably won’t know how to work a clutch pedal, but he’ll hold the key to unlocking the electronic brain responsible for keeping autonomous cars on the road, improving the breed with ever-increasing levels of speed and efficiency.
But here’s the most exciting part – eventually, he’ll want to go racing.
That’s right – computer-controlled race cars, duking it out on the track for algorithm supremacy.
I know what you’re thinking. “How monumentally boring. Without human pilots, what’s the point?”
The point will be the same as it’s always been – go faster. Like the virtual opponents in a racing game, these AI combatants will challenge living drivers to perform at their highest level.
Beat the computer. Git gud. Can you handle it?
The Rolling Living Space Decorator
So, let’s say it’s 2050. Fully autonomous cars are the rule rather than the exception, and driving for pleasure is relegated to country roads and the track. Sounds pretty boring, right?
Not at all. With human pilots out of the picture, the focus will instead be on the passenger, and A-to-B conveyance will be all about opulence. The self-driving machines will come with all the comforts of home, like small mobile apartments. Entertainment options will be plentiful. And like the interiors of modern show cars, the more over-the-top, the better. Enter the rolling living space decorator, who knows what it takes to move with style.
And because the computers will be in control, there’s no chance you’ll find these things cruising in the passing lane with the left blinker flashing.
Hey, you can’t be on full boil forever, and if you’ve gotta relax, you might as well do it properly.