A Wish For Autonomy

Dearest Rachel –

I know I used to joke about how many of their cars we could buy with the shares we owned in the company, but it was always a bit of a concern as to how for one could actually travel in a given day in a Tesla. Really, it’s a disadvantage that every electric car has at this point: sooner or later, you’ll have to stop somewhere for a particularly extended period of time in order to charge the darn thing up. Actually driving the full distance from Chicago to Nashville in a single day would not be an option in such a machine.

At the same time, there’s another feature of those automobiles that I really wouldn’t mind taking advantage of, although there’s not been as much chatter about it for some time; the autonomous driving feature. Sure, I’m most comfortable behind the wheel than anywhere else in the car, but ten straight hours does tend to wear on one. You always used to be so grateful to me for doing all the driving on my own (because unlike me, you rather disliked driving, especially at night – and it’s virtually impossible for a trip this long not to include some night driving, no matter the time of year), and while I already enjoyed having the wheel, it was a task where I was more than happy to take whatever rewards you were willing to offer me in thanks, because it was a bit draining to deal with over such an extended period of time.

In addition, there are those things that one occasionally wants to do that would be of questionable judgement to accomplish in a manual-control car. Even the act of selecting the next song on the… well, not the radio, as it’s not nearly as interactive as all that… on the iPhone requires a level of attention that might be considered worthy of at least reprimand, if not outright ticketing by the highway patrol. And let’s not even get started talking about writing to you, should an idea (or two or three) come to mind while driving down those endless miles of the same road between northwest Indiana and central Tennessee.

Frankly, honey, I miss being able to just talk with you while Daniel sleeps in the back seat. This whole ‘writing letters to you’ is not only a poor substitute, it’s also a dangerous practice were I to try it while driving.

But in an autonomous vehicle, I could occasionally let the machine take the wheel while I worked on this or that little idea in my head, looking at the road on a regular basis just to make sure that everything was still in reasonable order. Then, once I’d sorted my thoughts out, I could just go back to controlling the car myself, and no harm need be done – I can’t say no one would be the wiser, as it might well be obvious to someone driving by that I wasn’t giving the road my full attention during the times I had the autonomous function activated.

Strangely enough, I haven’t heard a whole lot about that feature in any of these cars lately. Not sure if it’s simply because the main focus is supposed to be upon its electric-powered green nature, or if it’s that the functionality isn’t quite up to snuff compared to human control – certainly, I’ve heard stories in the past of drivers completely leaving the driving to the car, and occasionally paying the ultimate price for such inattention. But even the negative stories have been pretty quiet lately. I wonder why that is?

Of course, it might just be that I haven’t been looking hard enough. For all I know, Elon and company (literally) might be dealing with a raft of lawsuits due to drivers’ over-reliance on the autonomous driving function, and the consequences of such relatively irresponsible behavior (like the activities I’m talking about doing while behind the wheel). Or maybe, it’s that drivers have discovered that, while they’re behind the wheel but letting the car do the driving, it behaves in way they would rather not, and simply decided as a group to maintain control in all but the most optimal of circumstances. It is, after all, a technology in its relative infancy; there are bound to be its fair share of teething troubles, if you’ll pardon the extended metaphor.

I have to admit, though, I’d really like to be able to address you with my thoughts while I’m driving, rather than try to compose something like this in advance, like I’m doing now. But the best way to manage that, would have been to simply still have had you here by my side, and that’s not going to happen.

Long story short – and it should come as absolutely no surprise – I miss having you with us. Both on unusual days like this, and ordinary days at home (although those have been fewer and farther between since you left; I’m still not quite sure what they look like yet). Wish there was a better way to communicate with you, but this is all I’ve got for now.

At least, until I can write you (safely) while I’m driving.

Anyway, keep an eye out for us, honey, and wish us luck. As always, we’re gonna need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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