Let's just say that Lee Majors isn't really known for his acting chops. Hey, don't get me wrong, I loved The Six Million Dollar Man - when I was eight years old - but over his entire oeuvre, he hasn't exactly made any memorable films, has he? One of his bigger stinkers was a 1981 film called The Last Chase. Its premise is simple: in the future, the US government outlaws all cars, under the pretense that there is no more oil. One man, played by Majors, rebels by digging up a Porsche race car that he buried and heads toward California, which has broken away from the regime and is now car-friendly (consider the irony in that one). Majors is chased by government agents and a fighter pilot intent on killing him and the symbol of freedom he represents; car chases and bad acting ensue.
But no matter how ridiculous this premise may sound, I feel like I'm going to remake this movie myself - only this time it's going to be in real life. Because with the coming of automated pod cars, I'm scared for the future of driving. Genuinely terrified. As you'll read elsewhere in Motoring, Heathrow Airport in London already has driverless people movers in use; Masdar City here in Abu Dhabi is testing them as you read this; and there are plans to increase the pod cars' numbers all over the world. It won't happen tomorrow, mind you; there are too few of them and to put the infrastructure in place for an entire city, even if the will was there, would take years.
But what happens when the pod cars do take over? What if a city and, eventually, an entire country implements a pod car network? The natural next step would be to outlaw regular cars, and that's where I get angry; a Lee Majors kind of angry. Imagine the first generation that grows up with pod cars, a generation that will never know the joys of driving. Imagine that they will never experience the thrill of a jaunty drive in a small convertible on a country lane in the spring? Or, they will never know the excitement of heel-and-toe downshifting, hearing the whine of the engine braking, as they line up to hit the apex of a turn perfectly? Or, something just as simple as passing a driver's test or buying their first car. The only people I would feel more sorry for are those that actually did experience all of these things, only to have that freedom cruely taken away.
Perhaps I can grudgingly see a point in the pod car - with fully automated vehicles, the number of accidents and fatalities would probably drop substantially. You would also take the aggression that some drivers have off the road - no more flashing headlights. The electric cars would also make a big dent in a city's pollution, too - though there is an arguement that we can also drive electric cars.
But we should be given the choice! Obviously, driving is very important to me, both as a profession and as a passion, and this insidious plot to deprive us of our rights to get behind the wheel and be in control of our own destiny - and destination - will not go unnoticed or without consequence. That hole I'm digging in the desert is almost finished.