Do I Really Want to Be in Control

Thursday, March 30, 2017

 

 

I was up in a small plane today. Sightseeing in Fort Mac. Yes, my spring break was likely a bit different than yours. Another part of Canada to marvel at. A super smooth flight.

 

I got the copilot seat and got to gaze at the plethora of controls and gauges that the pilot had to work with. Yes, he had to do more than turn the key or push a button and then put it in drive and go.

 

The technology of this airplane is nowhere near anything I work on at the shop. It is super old. There is no network of computers. There is no computer talk between computers. In fact every gauge and control looks like it came from a different manufacturer. A manufacturer that was proud of its design and not going to change.

 

The engine was a flat 4 cylinder air cooled just like my 1968 VW beetle. One of the controls I saw was red and allowed the pilot to adjust the air fuel ratio. What vehicle driver would know what to do with that?

 

It got me thinking how little control we now have over our own vehicles. I do not even own a driveable vehicle that has a clutch pedal (yes, that blue BMW 318is in front of my shop has a clutch pedal but it does not have an engine that runs).

 

Turn your vehicle on and it is likely in its most autonomous mode. All your intentions are being judged. Judged by an algorithm in a computer. Choose ‘D’ with the shifter, step on the accelerator pedal and away you go. Step too hard and fast on the accelerator pedal and the judge says no. If you want to take off that fast the wheels are going to slip and that could cause a loss of control. The algorithm says you want this but I will give you that.

 

Rolling along comfortably suddenly a vehicle changes lanes in front of you. You go for the brake. The brake algorithm thinks you are not pushing hard enough and it gives you a little extra braking effort. Your vehicle slows appropriately. You did not even know that algorithm again intervened on your judgement.

 

How do I develop judgement if I don’t know when I am being judged? How do I hone my skills when I am not in control?


Take a look in your owner’s manual. Somewhere buried within you may be able to mess with the judge. The stability program (ESP) may be defeatable (at least partially). You may be able to defeat the traction control just to hear your tires squeal again. There probably is a slot to put your shifter in where you have some control over which gear you are in and when to shift to the next gear. Ahh, the joys of being the boss.

 

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