In December 2014, Google released a fully functioning prototype of a driver less car with no pedals or steering wheels. Accompanying this was the declaration that a car that can drive itself, would be made available to the public by the year 2020. In a few decades or so, learning how to drive would be redundant. On hearing this, I was filled with a strange sense of responsibility and an obligation to learn how to drive.
It seemed easy enough. Everyone did it. I simply had to begin too. I had been told that it was necessary to learn, as important as learning how to walk or read. So I didn’t give it more than a second’s thought. I figured it would take around two weeks, tops. In no time, I would be just another driver, another addition to the congested roads and polluted air.
Turns out, it isn’t remotely easy to contribute to traffic and air pollution. I always thought driving a car was an inborn skill, which remained dormant till the age of 18, and was then switched on with a few lessons. Much like swallowing or speaking, I figured it was under that umbrella of ‘human instinct’.
My first lesson inspired confidence in me, and didn’t hint at the labours that were to follow. Primarily because it didn’t involve the vehicle being in motion. I was taught how to switch on the car engine, told about the gear and clutch love story, how one can’t function without the other, and the accelerator and break levers.
My next lesson on the following day was to start the car, move a few feet and stop. I had to take care that I released the clutch very slowly, but not slowly enough to disengage the engine. This was doable, but a sense of dread began lurking around in me.
It was in my third lesson when reality caught up to me and forced me to wave goodbye to my dream of driving anytime soon. That was the lesson in which my foot finally met the accelerator. Their first meeting should have been a soft touch, just a graze. However, my foot being the overzealous limb it is, went in for the charge, and slammed the accelerator. The car lurched ten feet forward before I realised what was happening and hit the brakes. The stray dog I narrowly missed, barked at me for disturbing its slumber, as I stared down the road trying to grasp the enormity of what I was doing. The realisation dawned that I had to control a 635+ kg body of steel and metal. Under all that metal was a combustible fluid. I suddenly felt every inch of the car around me closing in. Trapping me. Cornering me like a politically unhappy mob and demanding a new driver. The stray dog had trotted away to the end of the road and sensing my inability to drive warned the other dogs to stay away from this lane.
Although I tried convincing myself that this fear was normal, I couldn’t suppress the fear enough to gain any confidence about driving.
In the days that followed, the inhabitants of my street were privy to a free show of ‘Worlds Funniest Drivers’. Featuring a little red car , leaving zig-zag mud trails on the road, breaking and speeding abruptly, and occasionally moving backwards. Inside the car was a girl tearing her hair off, and sweating uncontrollably. I began looking at my parents, brother, and almost everyone on the road in admiration and respect. For they too had once learned to drive and had succeeded! How?!
After trying to learn how to shift gears and turn, my lessons moved extremely slowly and gradually to a stop. I could come up with a book of reasons as to why my classes didnt continue, but open up to the chapter titled truth, and you’ll see its plain and simply because I stopped attending them.
I’ve decided to wait out the few decades, and just use those driverless Google cars.