I’m thinking about buying a ’67 Chevy Camaro convertible with a Sport Package, 327, no rust, little in the way of fancy electronics and all mechanical joy. On eBay, asking $29,000.

McLaren 570GT: 0-100 km in 3.0 seconds or so, top speed (unregulated) of 326 km/hr. Amazing technology, snarly design, but a little soul-less.

McLaren 570GT: 0-100 km in 3.0 seconds or so, top speed (unregulated) of 326 km/hr. Amazing technology, snarly design, but a little soul-less.

I know the car well; I was nine years old when it went on sale. I love it still. At this stage of my game, I also know that I would get more joy from that car than any $200,000 or $1 million gem, no matter how rare, sexy or fast.

Here’s the deal: over the past three decades, I have driven all the great supercars cars imaginable. Ferrari, Aston-Martins, Lamborghini, McLarenm Porsche GT, Dodge Viper, Ford GT…I’ve driven them all.

Truth is, there is a kind of sameness to them all. The newer ones, especially, are technological marvels that are safe and easy to drive. Today, any unskilled or just plain careless idiot can hop in and drive away a car that will do 0-100 km/hour in less than four seconds — safe in the knowledge that the electronic nannies will save the worst driver from incompetence or stupidity.

What’s lost with most supercars today is the rawness, the exhilarating, physical and mental interactions of the past that marked the relationship between driver and machine, risk and all. For the most part, today’s supercar is a joyless showpiece for rich and spoiled poseurs who lack the kind of deep love and appreciation that, say, the late Carroll Shelby had for his Aston Martin DBR1, AC Cobra, and Mustang-based Shelby GT350 and GT500.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro convertible.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro convertible.

If Shelby were still alive, he could show up at a Mustang event filled with the faithful and be at home. Similarly, if I were to take a ’67 Chev to a Camaro event – any old or classic car get-together, actually — I would be immersed in a world alive with great stories and generous advice on how to fix this bit, buy that part, maintain some tricky corner of the car. I’d be part of a community.

In the bigger picture, that’s what owning and driving a car has been for the past 100 years or so – a social act that, somewhat ironically, has promised and delivered affordable freedom, opportunity and adventure to the masses. Cars have captured our imagination because they provide physical and social mobility.

A driver’s licence at its most basic has long been a kind of social contract – for the right to drive and the freedoms it affords, you agree to share the road. Yet at the same time, having your own car makes anything possible. As Bruce Springsteen sings in Thunder Road, you could just “roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.”

Behind the wheel, you are still alone and alive to possibilities. Yet cars also make us part of a community of drivers, all navigating life. Cars even now give us a tool to chase our dreams of a better tomorrow.

But not for much longer. Tomorrow won’t be better for people like me, not with the tsunami of technology headed our way. The technology-driven tediousness of so many supercars is about to be replaced by the complete ennui that comes with the electronic takeover of every driving function.

The cars of tomorrow, or at least tomorrow’s tomorrow, won’t even have a steering wheel – at least a functioning one. One day you can expect the steering wheel to be reduced to a design affectation — a kind of hood ornament — or the equivalent of a comforter. The steering wheel as fuzzy blanket with no real purpose, other than to sooth drivers who want to feel a semblance of control over a car that in fact is in total control. Meet Hal, your car.

We’re almost there now. From Tesla to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Volvo, car companies today sell vehicles capable of a measure of autonomous driving – using a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and automatic braking. It’s not yet safe for drivers to take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road completely, but that day is coming.

In the rush of announcements around autonomous and self-driving technology, the dialogue has been only about the “how,” not the “why.” The how appears to be grounded in something called lidar, for “light” and “radar.”

Light-based sensors are the future, apparently. Beams of ultraviolet, visible or near infrared light are said to render a precise 3-D view of the objects ahead and around a vehicle. Google has been working with this technology in its self-driving car project. As we all know Google is always right.

So lidar may be just what’s needed to make self-driving cars a reality. If not, other carmakers and suppliers will find a solution.

But no one is asking the more basic question: just because we can, should we? And when we do, what will be lost? Certainly some measure of freedom will be vaporized, and with it, the dreams I had as a young man with a new driver’s licence and my first car. The community of our roadways will be rendered utterly impersonal, too.

Something to ponder for ’67 Camaro owners and the like.



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