Early Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars won’t need steering wheels one day.

Car, Self-Driving

Reminds me of thinking WTF? at the wheel of my puke-green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon on the corner of Musgrave Road and St Thomas near the Robert E Lee nightclub of old after hearing a loud thump left rear. What could that be? I asked my companions, but them being drunk they just thought whatever it was it was hilarious. Irresponsible passengers!

Either the pavement had leaned forward and caught the wheel and whipped the tyre off the rim, or the self-driving car had irresponsibly cut the corner. Nothing to do with me, but now I had to try and change that tyre while planet earth was rotating dizzyingly all round me irregardless. Peugeot having not yet perfected the self-changing tyre. My companions were only a handicap, giving raucous and useless advice. They’d been drinking.

And do you think the planet would just cool it for a minute and rotate and revolve less vigorously while I wrestled with the diplopia, the wheel and the swaying? No, in fact I swear it accelerated somewhat. Probably a Chandler wobble happened just then, moving the wheel about 9m from where I was trying to change it. It happens every 433 days.

Being a superb handyman and able to handle my liquor, and by leaning my forehead against the wheel-arch, I got the wheel changed and we staggered into the Robert E Lee and ordered a round, the drunks still telling me what I coulda, shoulda.

In the morning I staggered to the window in Wakefield Court Doctors Quarters in Durban’s Point Road area to look down at the Peugeot parked below in Prince Street. That feeling of relief that it was there and the mystery as to how it got there. Auto-pilot. Who needs Elon Musk?

1974 Peugeot OHS 5688_2
This colour – but a handsome French wagon like the feature pic –        OHS 5688

Of course I no longer do that shit. In fact the last time I acted irremesponsibly was LONG ago in Mocambique after a few mega R&R’s (rum n raspberries). I was much younger. Must be eight, nine years ago. And I wasn’t driving. A drunk driver on the sand roads in the dunes was trying to shake me off the roof of his 4X4.

So why can’t my kids just skip this portion of their lives? I ask. I also ask critics of self-driving cars, ‘You really think cars can do a worse job than some of us drivers?’

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My first R&R actually astonished me, true. The barman in Ponta da Oura (you guys will remember his name) filled the 500ml beer tankard with ice then poured cheap rum out of a plastic bottle to 1cm from the top. NO! I laughed, Whoa! Not so much! He looked at me in genuine concerned sadness and said “It is too late. I have already poured it”. I understood then, as I watched him add a splash of Schweppes raspberry. This was how it played in Ponta. I girded my loins. It would have to be done.

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Part of Earth’s wobble may be our fault for driving around aimlessly at night burning up fossil fuels! Seems since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 10.5 meters. Seems a third of the shift is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland. Another third of the wobble is due to land masses expanding upward as the glaciers retreat and lighten their load. The final portion is the fault of the slow churn of the mantle, the viscous middle layer of the planet.