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The road ahead is always changing. See what two well-known bloggers have to say about the evolution of the everyday drive.
By Garry Sowerby
“Good clear night! Let’s see what this baby will do!” a lanky young man in a long, sleek, red convertible yells to his date as her unimpressed parents look on.
I vividly remember the graphic and the what-not-to-do caption from the dating etiquette chapter of my Grade 9 health book.
That visual has stuck with me for years. What was the message? Go to the door and politely introduce yourself, of course. Who cared about the 1960s road yacht with a marshmallow suspension, marginal brakes and no seat belts driven by a teenager who likely learned to drive from an older sibling, inheriting all their bad habits in the process?
Hmm. Things certainly have changed and as I have matured, so have the means of getting down the highway.
For starters, most drivers begin in the classroom of a driving school rather than a back road or farmer’s field. Many provinces have graduated licensing programs, initially limiting the number of passengers, hours of operation and even what routes can be driven. So from the get-go, new drivers are more prepared to take on the challenges of today’s high-speed highways and traffic congestion.
What about the vehicles themselves? Beyond styling, cars have greatly evolved over the years in terms of safety, performance and comfort.
They are easier to drive, much more quiet and forgiving. Anti-lock brakes allow drivers to maintain control of their vehicle under maximum braking conditions. Traction control and anti-skid systems help drivers avert trouble in emergency situations.
Today’s engines are more powerful. Six-cylinder powerplants offer more horsepower and torque than V8s used to while four-cylinders perform like yesterday’s six-cylinders with dramatic improvements in fuel economy. But this power must be harnessed and that is where new control technologies come into play.
Without question, vehicles are now safer but technologically complex with more computing power than the early lunar expeditions. Today’s onboard entertainment, navigation and operational systems need to be understood by drivers, so it’s important to spend time in the driveway with the user manual before hitting the road.
Yes, things have undoubtedly changed in the driving world. Advanced highway systems, driver education and more fuel-efficient, reliable vehicles all play a pivotal role in fine-tuning the art of personal transportation.
As a result, driving itself is even more fun than it used to be. But thankfully, ‘seeing what this baby will do on a good clear night’ is not what it used to be.
Garry Sowerby writes a bi-weekly column for the The Chronicle Herald as well as a weekly column for The Vancouver Sun’s Driving section and for PostMedia Network. He is a contributor to Wheelbase Communications. Garry has also written for the Globe and Mail’s Megawheels section and from 2004 – 2008, collaborated with Lisa Calvi on regular features, ‘He Drove She Drove’ and ‘Intersections,’ for Carguide Magazine.
By Lisa Calvi
It’s my first time driving on public roads and I’m cresting a hill in a Chevy. I see that curvy road splayed out far below and I gasp sharply with the realization that I am in control. This isn’t some carnival ride where I can close my eyes and wait for the terror to subside. It’s all up to me. Oh, the freedom.
Driving has very nearly become a basic human need. Almost anyone can do it. After a number of years, it’s second nature. In many cases, it’s a necessity that’s taken for granted.
Despite advances in technology, food science, communications and medicine, you could say ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. We still have to put one foot in front of the other to propel ourselves forward, eat good food to stay alive and healthy, clothe ourselves to stay warm.
That other basic need, the act of driving, and the reasons to do it haven’t changed. We sit in a seat and grip a round wheel. There are pedals on the floor at our feet. The vehicle gets us from Point A to Point B.
But, of all the ways the world has changed in the past decades, the monumental shift in the driving experience is one of the most remarkable.
A vehicle today is an oasis. It’s quiet, climate-controlled, seats are comfortable; there are more amenities than you could have imagined. You are surrounded by airbags. You can get great fuel economy whether you’re puttering around the city picking up supplies for the new condo or out on the highway roadtripping with your bestie. The worry of breaking down and sitting on the roadside waiting for rescue has virtually disappeared.
And music? You can have XM 20 on 20 or Hip Hop Nation from Montreal to Vancouver if you want. Remember the sound of the radio station fading out because you had driven out of range? Me neither. The only interruption in your road tunes now is a slight hiccup when an email comes in.
When you got into a new vehicle a few short years ago, you’d have to adjust your mirrors and your seat, know how to turn on the headlights and windshield wipers, then hit the road. Now you connect your smart phone wirelessly, play your music and even tell your vehicle to check your email and update your Facebook status! You type your destination into the GPS Navigation system and get turn-by-turn route directions. You’re at Point B before you know it!
Technology, better highways and better navigation systems make the driving experience easier, safer and more efficient, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
You’re still the driver. You get to decide the destination; you experience the thrill of seeing what’s around the next corner, the excitement of your own wheels propelling you forward, the ability to shrink the world and that ever-changing view through the windshield. Did someone say ‘road trip’?
Lisa Calvi currently writes 'Wheel Woman,' a weekly column for The Vancouver Province’s Driving section and PostMedia Network, and is an occasional contributor to The Chronicle Herald Wheels. From 2004 – 2008, Lisa collaborated with Garry Sowerby on regular features, ‘He Drove She Drove’ and ‘Intersections,’ for Carguide Magazine.
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