Leno: I love to drive, but autonomous vehicles might not be so bad


When I bought my Viper in 1992, I remember the salesman saying, “You’ll never see cars with 400 horsepower again.” I believed him! At the time, it didn’t seem like you ever would; 400 horses was so outrageous. Now you have Chevys with 750 horsepower. Not long ago I drove the 2019 ZR1 at GM’s proving ground in Milford, Michigan. We went 204 mph on the track for 50 miles, and the car was rock steady. I’m talking pump gas, street tires, no tricks—just a production Vette. Slowing to 150, I felt like I could get out of the car, it seemed so slow.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/28/jay-leno-autonomous-vehicles-might-not-be-so-bad


I’ve got the autonomous thing figured out - I’m driving my '72 Mercedes 280SEL 4.5 until my sons tell me it’s time to hang up the keys - then I’m going autonomous all the way!


On my home today, I watched a young woman drive a brand new BMW 4 Series Coupe across 4 lanes of traffic to take a right turn ahead of me only to lose control of it, launch onto the curb and take down a concrete light pole. I turned just after she made the turn to see this remarkable sight. The pole collapsed and the light fixture fell straight down onto the hood, the pole onto the cowl just ahead of the windshield. Two occupants were still in the car as I parked just ahead of their accident scene. The driver was still on her phone! I ran from my VW Bus to see if they were alright, the driver was stunned. “It all happened so fast”, she said. The guy riding with her was livid, evidently, it was his car. The had been arguing and the woman had been driving radically. I called 911 and asked if they needed any assistance. They fumed at each other, so I went back to my parked vehicle until help arrived. My 90-year-old Dad was with me and from his vantage point, this whole incident was just plain stupid. He said, “this is why we need cars that drive themselves!” In this case, I agree.


As autonomous cars develop I expect they will evolve to look like minnie rail passenger cars. They will drive a inch apart to draft and become a efficient train like caravan with each only pulling a fraction of the load. Ugly but effective. Best keep at least one hot rod for stress relief.


As we drop further down the rabbit hole of irresponsiblility and failure to commit, autonomous cars are a certainty. We live in a world where the real world and the virtual world seem to be melding together and the driver’s seat seems to be the major intersection of that blurring. People want to multi task rather than pay attention to a single task (driving). They have been raised and indoctrinated to hate motor vehicles as a killer of mankind, rather than their own lack of attention. They would prefer to play video games or apply makeup to driving their automobile. As a guy who grew up with the automobile and who loves to drive his vintage performance vehicles, I really don’t get it, but I guess that is the curse of old age.


It’s coming. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
So will we need collision insurance? Because if I’m not driving, I’m not at fault.
But who is???


There will still be a “designated pilot” who is in charge of the vehicle. So we’ll all still need insurance :-/


I’m guessing once the majority of cars become autonomous, us “manual drivers” will have to get our out-dated jalopies fitted with some sort of broadcast beacon so the Autono’s can “see” us and avoid us better.

We’ll be able to subscribe to an Autono provider. Pay extra for “express lane priviledges” or maybe a higher speed limit fee? Maybe a bit extra for something with racing stripes, or in your favorite color, or a built in kitchenette and shower. Repairs and service might be part of the subscription - or cost extra, depending on your choice. You’ll be able to pay extra for a “dedicated Autono” that only you use, or pay the minimum for the “ride-share” version, where you call it like a cab or Uber.

There won’t be any more homeless - or yards to mow. People will just live in their Autonomobile. You’ll pay for a parking spot somewhere (maybe part of your subscription) that will include water / electric / sewer hook up. You could probably even “timeshare” different parking locations: close to work during the week, and out at the mountains or beach on the weekend.

Can’t afford a parking spot? Don’t worry, you can set your Autono on auto-pilot and sleep while it just does laps around the city all night. During the day it will auto-rove off to someplace that it can plug in and recharge (if we haven’t embedded the roads with recharging inductors by then).

The possibilities are limitless.


I agree entirely. I sold my Bug Eye because my wife was afraid we’d get run over by a Ford 150 truck. Literally She called it the organ donor car. Now I’m resurrecting a Canadian made Volvo 123GT and should have it done next year. Deborah has deemed it safe enough to drive in traffic and it is sturdy enough to navigate our pothole ridden streets.


I will never trust my life to an autonomous car relinquishing control of my life to a computer. Simply put, computers fail. Yes a car I am physically driving may fail and hurl me off a cliff but at least with me at the controls I still had some degree of fate left in my hands. And what of the enjoyment I feel when I am driving? I will not give that up for any reason short of incapacitation. It is amamzing to me that anyone that considers themselves to be a car person would even consider giving driving up. It’s like the collector car owner that has no idea how to repair or fix their collector car and then stands up at a car show when their car wins a trophy and proclaims “I deserve it”. No, your mechanic deserves the trophy. If you can’t fix it or want to drive it, you’re a car owner, not a car person.