The Auto Singularity: One Reason I Still Drive a Beat-up Honda

self-driving-car

I’ve got a confession to make.  I really want a new car.  I’ve been driving the same ’98 Honda since I graduated college in 2001 and that thing has been through the ringer.  It’s ugly and noisy and the damn left turn-signal needs to be fixed… Again!

I’ve got another confession to make.  I live 2 miles from where I work.  I could walk.  I could take the bus (my work provides free transit passes).  I could bike (there’s a workout area at my office with showers on-site that bike commuters can use).  Or I could wake up a little earlier and hitch a ride every day with my wife, who passes by my office at the start of her much more legitimate commute.

But out of sheer laziness I still find myself climbing into that old, noisy, beat-up Honda almost every day – carefully so I don’t knock out the ball-point pen propping up the lever that makes the wind-shield wipers work – and drive it 2 miles to work.  I might as well print out a picture of Mr. Money Mustache and have it punch me in the face.  I can’t right now, though.  Our printer is out of ink.

So, if I’m that lazy and if I’m also slightly embarrassed parking my old car next to brand new BMWs and Range Rovers, why don’t I just ditch the Honda and get a new car (or at least a nicer used car)?  Well, some of it is the fact that I have alternative transportation as a back-up.  And I am just frugal enough to grin and bear the embarrassment so I don’t have to have a car payment.  But there’s another thing that helps me hold off…

The Fast-Approaching Auto Singularity

How can I explain this?  How many of you watch The Big Bang Theory?  Lots, I’m guessing.  At least that’s what CBS says.

In one of my favorite episodes, The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification, Sheldon charts his remaining life-expectancy on a white board and determines he’ll die before humanity reaches the Singularity.  He describes the Singularity as the point where a man can merge his consciousness with machines and essentially live forever on-line.  Sheldon even rigs up a homemade “Mobile Virtual Presence Device”, a computer monitor on wheels, to interact with the outside world for him while his physical body stays safe in his bedroom so he can survive long enough to make it to the Singularity.

The Singularity is heaven for Sheldon.  But it can also be thought of through the much darker and dystopian lens of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fictional Borg Collective, where man and machine have merged and all thoughts and actions belong to and are controlled by the Collective.  That version of the Singularity would suck.  Just ask Captain Picard.

We may never reach the Singularity as Sheldon describes it, the point where human consciousness lives online.  If we do, I don’t know whether it’ll be paradise or the end of humanity.

We are, however, fast approaching what I’m calling the Auto Singularity.  This is when the “auto” in automobile truly means automatic.  This is is a world where most cars are self-driving and their collective car “consciousness” is uploaded online so they constantly talk to each other and know exactly where each other is at at all times.  The Auto Singularity is a fully intelligent transportation system.

It’s coming sooner than you think.  John Zimmer, president of ridesharing company Lyft (the ones with the fuzzy pink mustache), recently predicted the majority of Lyft’s fleet would be self-driving by 2021.  Five years!  Lyft competitor Uber is already testing $2 fares in some cities to compete with public transportation.  It seems we’re quickly heading toward a ride-sharing reality that’s extremely convenient and super cheap.

Imagine a city in the not-too-distant future where you pay a monthly membership for access to a fleet of shiny self-driving cars that can be summoned to your driveway to take you anywhere you want to go at the tap of an app. Imagine a city with no parking lots. Imagine a city where these autonomous cars are so efficient at picking up and dropping off that they never ride empty and never sit idle.  Imagine a city with no traffic congestion because the cars control the speed, never tap the brakes and actually know how to zipper merge.  I think the Auto Singularity will be awesome!

For those of us that still like to drive ourselves every once in a while.  There will be special “race” tracks for that.  Or you can drive with other human drivers in what may end up being known as the “demolition derby death” lanes of the future.  If they don’t ban human driving on freeways altogether, city engineers will certainly separate human drivers from driverless cars.  Consider this proposal for a stretch of Interstate 5 in Washington.

Much like Sheldon going to extremes to extend his life to reach his Singularity, I’m trying to extend the life of my little Honda to get me to the Auto Singularity.

That’s a big reason I’m reluctant to get a new car.  I keep thinking if my Honda can putter along long enough to take me to at least the early days of the Auto Singularity, I may never need to actually own a car again.  I may never need to pay insurance.  I may never need to schedule another oil change or tire rotation or have a greasy mechanic plug my car into a computer to tell me that the reason the check-engine light is on is because the stupid sensor is busted.

Whenever I drive by a car dealership in my beat-up Honda, I’m tempted to pull in and just sign and drive.  I’ve owned a crappy car for so long!  Of course I don’t want the car payment.  I am fairly frugal and I value cash flow.  Besides, we’ve got bigger plans for the money.  Of course Mr. Money Mustache is on my right shoulder steering me away.

But there’s one thing that ultimately seals the deal and I end up cruising right on past the dealership.  The future of transportation is just on the horizon and it will change everything.  My Honda and I have been through a lot together.  We can make it a little further.

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11 comments

  1. The stash will be angry if you gave up your car haha. While it sucks driving an old car, and believe me I know as my gf went through the same thing and we constantly had breakdowns, it is a great way to put your money to better use if it runs properly. Sooner or later you will need to upgrade but in the mean time that cash is helping you grow your finances at a rapid rate.

    PS. I am pumped for self driving cars! They will be very common in the coming years and once the technology works properly it will make long drives a little more bearable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am super amped for self driving cars in the future. It will certainly be a game changer. I would love to be able to sleep in my car as I drive to work or read the newspaper. Plus I think of all the accidents and drunk drivers that will be avoided with driverless cars. I am one of those eagerly awaiting it. I think it’s smart to continue waiting while the technology seems more imminent by the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many reasons it will make our lives better. And then when Elon Musk can shoot us through that pneumatic tube (hyperloop) he’s working on to travel between cities it’ll be that much better!

      Like

  3. OUTSTANDING theory! Kind of makes me long for my old 2007 Honda Accord. Why did I have to swap it for a 2009 Fit? MMM. Rat bastard.
    Nice post, Crispy, but you need to get your tuchus on a bike. 2 miles? Jesus, dude- Minneapolis! Represent!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. I know. And wasn’t Minneapolis ranked one of the most bike-friendly cities too?

      Last year I did go a stretch biking to work. I’m not digging my old Specialized “mountain” bike, though (why I got a mountain bike when I don’t do trails, I can’t tell you). Maybe if I got one of those fat tire bikes…

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. CC,
    I do think it is coming but I am skeptical it is 5 years out. Another point is you can’t side hustle and drive for Uber with a 20 year old car so depending on the circumstances, you may want to bite the bullet. I am thinking of replacing the 12 year old Toyota next year and drive for Uber to pay the car payment, insurance and Massachusetts excise tax. Then I think it may be worth it to get a new one. I always struggle with this topic. Biking to work sounds awful btw… all sweaty and then trying to clean up and head in to the office. And what about snow and cold weather, not for me. Kudos to you if you can do it. I know MMM will say yes, bike it, but when it is 0 degrees. ouch !! Hyperloop, I am all about that !!

    -Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Brian, thanks for the comment! This article was more of a thought-experiment after seeing that article that Lyft was planning to have their fleet self-driving in 5 years. I started thinking, If my Honda could make it to that point, maybe we wouldn’t need to replace it. We live in a medium-sized metro (Minneapolis/St Paul), fairly close to the urban center, so my guess is Lyft’s self-driving fleet could come here fairly quickly.

      Truth is, more than likely we’ll end up upgrading the Honda in a couple years, but the auto singularity will always be in the back of my mind. And I didn’t even think about the Hyperloop! I’ve always wanted to be shot through a pneumatic tube 😉

      Like

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