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On the road again, 'hands-free’

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I have had a few conversations recently about advances in driver assist features available in some of the newer cars.

A friend of mine owns a Tesla, an electric car that offers all kinds of bells and whistles. One of these is “autopilot,” which is a driver assist feature to help the driving experience by keeping the car driving safely, within the lane at a proper distance from the other vehicles and at a legal speed. My friend describes his Tesla as being the best car he has ever owned. He likes, among other things, the hands-free aspect of driving which relieves stress, he says, particularly on longer drives.

To remain operational, the driver is required to engage regularly with the car and failing to do so will end the ride. The driver is ultimately in charge and responsible for operating his motor vehicle. Some accidents have occurred mainly due to driver inattentiveness. And possibly also due to a misinterpretation of the feature’s name “autopilot.” It is not like an airplane autopilot that takes complete control of the aircraft to fly you from one point to another. It is more like a smart cruise control than a true autopilot.

Cadillac and Nissan both offer similar driver assist hands free features. These also require driver input and even use a camera to confirm that the driver is paying appropriate attention to the road.

I don’t like to brag but I have been driving “hands-free” for many years now, a process that I perfected in my 1974 dodge van as a teenager. How it worked was if I positioned myself in the driver’s seat just so and used my knees to steer, I could achieve hands free operation of the vehicle.

Driving with this hands-free method gave me an opportunity to do other things as I drove along I-10 at freeway speeds, such as eating a hamburger. Or playing my guitar. Of course, playing the guitar required that I rolled down the driver door’s window to be able to have the guitar neck extend out of it. Then I let the pickin’ and grinnin’ begin. [Insert soundtrack here: Willie singing “On the Road Again.”]

Don’t get me wrong. Driver attentiveness was as important as ever in this scenario as it is with the Tesla vehicles. Even more so I would say since driving this way was more than a little reckless and probably illegal, too.

Finally, as a disclaimer, I do not suggest you try this method, even though it will work on virtually any road and vehicle type and it costs a lot less than a new Tesla. Happy cruising!

Johnny McNally is Grimes County’s Best Dressed Businessman advocating for Grimes County and writes a bi-weekly column for the Navasota Examiner.