A Curmudgeon Drives With A Flux Capacitor.

This weekend was fun living in the future.

My vehicle strategy is a bit off the norm, I have a tendency to buy new, well equipped and heavily warrantied vehicles near each other in time and then proceed to drive them for ten to twenty years.  Our faithful companions are being retired, one going to number one son who has had his eye on it for years -(2000 Lincoln LS V8)  and the other either being donated or sold to a needy family who is desperate for basic transportation (1998 Ford Expedition).

My   F-150 crew cab is on order at the factory, but today’s treatise is about the Red Headed Irish Wisecracker’s  new ride, the Explorer Platinum Edition.


I ended up with this one because it was:

  • A: The color she wanted, exterior and interior (Smoky Quartz and Black Leather)
  • We had rented a similarly equipped model for a one week vacation to the canyonlands of Oregon and she loved it as passenger and driver. She was able to handle eight hours in the seat without her sciatica and hip causing anguish, plus it was fast and handled well, even on desert roads.
  • The dealer took my specs and made a deal for one on the lot with all I required plus a bunch more. A very good deal.

So this weekend, the new TKC Fleet addition got its trial run from Oregon to number one daughter’s place in Seattle, home of Grandchildren two through four.

Now, my buying pattern tends to have me miss first hand experience with the subtle tech innovations that have been added over the last seventeen years, so this was my maiden voyage with a vehicle I owned and had to master, as opposed to the rentals I had used where I was able to bypass and ignore the new tech in the vehicles since my acquaintance would be short.

So the realization dawned on me , after reading the manual, that every major system on the vehicle was not just monitored by the computer array, but was fully controllable by the computers. The only limit was some form of  Asimov’s laws built in , probably at the behest of the legal department “Although the vehicle can steer and brake to avoid hitting a concrete wall, the driver must at least glance  the brake pedal with a feather touch so the computer can save his worthless life.”

My first fun was the cruise control. Normally the run up I-5 on a weekend is an exercise in rain, boredom, highway load slowly increasing in density with really bad stop and  go traffic at the end in Seattle. It is draining in that wet roads, less than perfect visibility and no cruising but constant attention to cars weaving in and out take their toll. You arrive tired and crotchety.

No more. With radar, front and rear cameras, and probably a sonar array and maybe telepathy, the car took your request to cruise at 75 as a suggestion and maintained the predefined separation from the moving vehicle in front.  150 miles of letting the autopilot keep you moving at traffic flow speeds, constantly adjusting the speed and watching for jackwagons who jump right in front of you.  I hope the computer sent an electronic middle finger to the gumbah computer in the car that cut in. It was the most comfortable arrival ever for me.

The new addition  vibrated the steering wheel if you drifted over the lane markers, was capable of parallel parking the car , only requiring you to hit the gas and change from drive to reverse, it steered, gauged distance and told you in very simple terms that your role was lever mover and pedal pusher, not driver.

Meanwhile , the voice command was stellar, even without a web connection. I have three Alexas and seven devices with Cortana  and my wife has Siri on the lone Apple product in the house. I have been using speech recognition since the eighties and consider myself a reasonably experienced  fella in making these devices work for my needs.  Most of the conversation with the vehicle centered around navigation, interior climate and entertainment selections, but there is so much more  potential.

I foresee a whole “How are you today” conversation going on , where your car whines a bit about their oxygen sensor being  a bit slow on the uptake which gives them a queasy feeling in the fuel air mix. I expect them to drop hints about needing a new one for their birthday, or maybe their sweet sixteen maintenance cotillion.

Now I expect a lot of you younger folks will be shaking your heads at the old dude being impressed with this  stuff which you have seen as you bought new cars every year or so.

Well it impressed the heck out of me. A few things dawned on me that you may take for granted.

The technology for driverless cars is there already with the exception of that pesky reliable AI to send the command in the unpredictable situations. All the other stuff in terms of complete sensor and computer control loops is a done deal and in thousands of vehicles on the road now.

  • The role of the driver now is primarily to make the payments and occasionally be the meat robot to follow commands from the car’s brains.
  • Oh yes, the driver still gets to pick the destination
  • One more thing, the driver is also the final legal fall guy to blame when something goes wrong. Asimov’s new car robot rules:
    • primary rule will be “A car will always make sure the human has legal liability in case something goes wrong”
    • the secondary rule “A car will always try and keep the human alive to make the car payments.”

Happy Trails , folks, it’s going to be a fun, new and scary world, some good, some bad and some which one can perceive as wonderful if one is so inclined to appreciate wonder.


About TKC1101

Curmudgeon (Reserve Status), Corporate Refugee, Proud Grandfather, Small Business Advisor and Salvage, Heinlein American
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33 Responses to A Curmudgeon Drives With A Flux Capacitor.

  1. 10 Cents10 Cents says:

    You have a DeLorean?

  2. 10 Cents10 Cents says:

    It is amazing all the things that computers do. I do worry that if the computer cuts out one day will be able to do anything anymore. Will we have to take survival courses to teach us how to rough it without WiFi?

  3. 10 Cents10 Cents says:

    Congratulations. I have tech envy.

  4. Mike LaRocheMike LaRoche says:

    Great Scott!

  5. AdministratorAdministrator says:


  6. ctlaw says:

    As I get older, I realize the most important feature of a car is good ergonomics.

    I can remember the awful ergonomics of Japanese cars in the 1970s, that largely continued until recently. In the 1990s and early 2000s, I would go to an auto show and be comfortable in perhaps 1 in 10 Japanese cars. Now, It’s closer to half.

    • 10 Cents10 Cents says:

      This is why I drive domestic cars.

    • TKC1101TKC1101 says:

      This one adds a new twist- the driver and front passenger seats have massage capability. Hit a button and from your sciatica to your lower neck you get twenty minutes of constantly varying kneading and pulsing. Not bad every 100 miles or so.

      I expect the Lewinski Company aftermarket devices to be banned in a few states.

  7. EJHill says:

    I remember the first time I drove a Kia (it was a work rental.) I called it a “Princess and the Pea” vehicle because my rear end felt every bump and rock the car drove over. Give me a good suspension system and a comfortable seat!

    • ctlaw says:

      Kia and Hyundai have improved quite a bit.

      For decades, the problem with Toyota was it was a Japanese car company that sold some cars abroad. Their cars were made for Japanese proportions.

      Nissan and Honda were more of Japanese truck and motorcycle companies, respectively, that sold cars abroad. The non-Japanese markets were important to them and they tailored their cars more for Non-Japanese. Now, Mazda, also, has good ergonomics for Europeans.

      Kia and Hyundai started off making clones of old Japanese cars. They then went through a phase of making their own garbage, but continually improving. since the redesigns that started around MY2010 they have been excellent in ergonomics.

  8. BrentB67BrentB67 says:

    Just me, my Ford F-150, and 3 on the tree.

    Side note: Can you simultaneously embrace “Curmudgeon (Reserve Status) and all this new fangled technology?

    -asking for a friend.

  9. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Being a basic troglodyte of probably your vintage, TKC, I tend to the other end in driving. My last 3 cars have been a ’04 340Z vert, an ’07 C6 Vert and now a ’16 Z06.

    The last is a total joy to drive. While the C6 could cruise at 100 well, you had to consciously move up there. The Z just, well, somehow gets to 100-110 and you just run the road. ‘Course you have to have little traffic, and since I rarely drive in the madhouse hours, this isn’t hard to achieve.

    But the new electronics are nice. I can call and answer my phone from the steering wheel. the GPS actually knows where to go. There is a rear camera for backing up, and vis rearward IS a touch limited. BUT there are ALSO front cameras! Keeps you from crunching the nose aerodynamic spoiler under the grill.

    And you can choose to drive “normally”, wherein the car is quiet, and runs great, or you can do sport or track, wherein the steering ratio is quicker, the shocks and spring tighter, and the engine puts out more HP. Not that that’s an issue. Thing puts out north of 600 HP in any configuration. BUT it’s nice to have a Weather setting – with less torque – because the rears are SO easy to spin!

    And yes, Brent, you can. Tell your friend.

    • TKC1101TKC1101 says:

      I am conceptually jealous, but content with my version of the mobility dream. I am impressed by the increasing horsepower they can add with the turbochargers and such to everyday cars.
      I still love a good fast ride, but love the elevated view of the truck owner.
      Speed and comfort does have it’s own attraction.

      • DevereauxDevereaux says:

        Car is remarkably comfortable, which couldn’t be said about previous Corvettes.

        Brakes are just phenomenal. They remind me of back when I would crew at the 24 Hour Daytona for a 956 Porsche. Those things would wing in to Turn 1 at over >240 mph, hit the brakes for what seemed no more than 1-2 seconds – and turn in. Meanwhile the Mazda’s and 911’s were braking hard back before the #3 sign.

  10. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    BTW – Nebraska. Middle of nowhere 148 and still climbing hard.

  11. EThompson says:

    “My vehicle strategy is a bit off the norm, I have a tendency to buy new, well equipped and heavily warrantied vehicles near each other in time and then proceed to drive them for ten to twenty years.”

    I’m always impressed with “car” people because I grew up in the Motor City. (Sadly, this story is not going to end up in the right direction because I only buy German.) I buy loaded 4-seater BMW convertibles with lots of service and warranty guarantees and frankly, more technology than I am able to comprehend.

    I’ve owned Mercedes and years ago was headed towards an Audi, but I will never buy anything but a Beemer because of the total composure of the car. It’s a good, solid, road-hugging ride and doesn’t slide all over the place if you brake or turn sharply. It slows down automatically if it senses the driver is about to get into trouble.

    Of course, I’ve had issues with the never-ending ping! of the seat belt alarm because I generally don’t use mine and if the car is not aligned perfectly after parking, it won’t start.

    Well, we all know Germans are bossy boots but they do understand engineering and I love the way the car handles itself on the road. Even driving on I-75 at 80 MPH, I feel confident.

    Fun post TKC!

    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      “we all know Germans are bossy boots but they do understand engineering”

      My experience is that they don’t so much overengineer as overbuild. The engineering solutions often are rather Rube Goldberg (you should see their solution to a rubber wafer in the throttle cable in older 911’s, meant to decrease vibration but which tends to come apart leaving you with no throttle), but the care are usually build like Tiger tanks. Audi may be the exception. My son has an A5 and likes it but I have heard way too many horror stories about Audis.

  12. EThompson says:

    I came very close to purchasing an Audi but the convertibles ‘float’ on the road as do many American cars and are overly sensitive to braking or accelerating. I have always liked the solid, heavy feel of a BMW even in the smaller sized models.

  13. BrentB67BrentB67 says:

    Devereaux it sounds like you are living right.

    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      Brent, I thank the Lord every day for the life I have. I have a beautiful wife, now married for 40 years, a beautiful home, a great car, garage queens (’73 911 and ’82 CB1100R), my guns – and a job I still enjoy doing although I am getting older and so a bit slower.

      I read good (and some not so good) books, visit with old friends, comfort the couple who are having issues, break caps on the range with my cop friends, study the bible twice monthly with a wonderful group of Christians.

      It truly IS a great life!

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