I swore I’d never buy another car. As far as I’m concerned our 1997 Honda Accord Wagon is the last word in automotive design — practical for hauling stuff, but not too big. Its dials and controls are ergonomically perfect. It has big windows and small blind spots.
When we bought it slightly used the salesman said we were getting a “cream puff.” And we thought that was a good description in terms of its looks and personality. From its “heather mist” color to its gentleness on our pocketbook, it really was a sweet ride.
And we thought it would go on forever. With 17 years and 172,000 miles under its belt, it showed only the character scars of an old friend. A dent where one of my hunting buddies had backed into it. Another where I had backed into an SUV in the Monty’s Blue Plate parking lot shortly after losing my election in 2011 (that was a bad year in a lot of ways).
But this year when I took the cream puff in for its annual spring car wash, the signs of rust had increased and a trip to the dealership for a religiously kept oil change revealed some potential strains down the line. Not anything so severe as heart disease or cancer for a car, but certainly some arthritis was setting in.
So, we’re taking the plunge and shopping for a replacement, though nothing can really ever replace the cream puff. I had hoped for a few more good years out of our old friend because I have a pretty strong sense that a radical new generation of cars is not far off.
The autonomous or “driverless” car is fast approaching. Audi is planning to have a model available the year after next, and every major car company has one in development.
This is almost all good. It means many fewer crashes and deaths and injuries. It means more mobility for those who can’t or don’t like to drive. It probably means less need for expensive road expansions as each lane will be able to carry a lot more traffic when automated cars can form train-like convoys. And you’ll be able to text to your heart’s content.
Talk about your disruptive technologies: This will mean major dislocations, but in the end there’s a lot more to like about a car that drives itself than there is to worry about.
For myself, I like driving as much as the next guy (as long as the next guy is Ralph Nader), but I wouldn’t mind just being transported someplace while I read or catch up on email or just stare out the window.
It’ll be a good thing, but it looks like before that happens I’ll be driving one more car. I hope it’s a cream puff.