Stick shift for life!

I always preferred a manual transmission in my cars and not because there was a premium price for automatic transmission. I can’t even supply a coherent reason backing my preference, other than the simple love of cars, driving them and the control [I think] I have when selecting my own gear instead of the car selecting for me. I believe they label people like me “gearheads” or “pistonheads”; that’s “petrolheads” for folks across the pond, I’m told.

Due to my love of driving, I didn’t care too much about the early developments in autonomous, aka self-driving, cars either. Sure, being a self-professed geek at heart, I skimmed through articles about Google's and Tesla’s efforts as they had entertainment value for me. As a strategist, I was keenly aware of the business strategy Tesla deployed in bringing their electric cars to market.

Just like the accelerated market penetration of drones caught many by surprise, so much so that Federal Aviation Administration had to step in and mandate registration of drones, my interest in autonomous cars suddenly increased as Tesla announced that they were testing autonomous driving algorithms in some of their cars already on the road. Yes, Tesla has been equipping their recent cars with hardware necessary for autonomous driving, making their existing cars self-driving-capable with a software upgrade when ready.

Wow, doesn’t that make the car like a computer where you have the capable hardware in the hands of the consumers and they can upgrade the software, aka the operating system in this analogy, from Windows 7 to Windows 10? I digress ...

Frankly, the reason for my increased interest in autonomous cars is not because I warmed up to the idea of my car driving itself. Nope, my “stick shift for life!” proclamation has not faltered. Rather, it is because I see a lot of utility in self-driving cars when it comes to the senior demographic.

Often a touchy subject, many of my friends and even myself have had to deal with telling our aging parents and/or loved ones to give up their driving privileges due to safety concerns. Then comes the need to come up with a replacement mode of transportation as Grandpa still wants to go to the 10 a.m. bridge club at the senior center. Only one problem: you work during the day (or you are 6,000 miles away from home, like me). Or a similar dilemma, how’s Grandpa going to get to his doctor’s appointment?

Imagine a “certified safe” self-driving algorithm in every car that can be initiated on-demand. Grandpa still has his freedom to go anywhere he pleases on his own terms by turning on the self-driving. You, on the other hand, can keep it off until you need to use it, like when you had too much to drink at a party or you suddenly feel too sleepy to stay drive. This is another case of technology being a tool; how one uses the technology is what creates value.

Tak Sato

Technology and Organization Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 9:36 AM, 05.16.2017