On self-driving cars

Here is a video I made about self-driving cars, and which I recorded in our VW Passat Station Wagon, which has a feature called Adaptive Cruise Control. When I got this car, I was amazed at how it could apply braking and acceleration as needed in order to keep the car at a safe distance from those in front of it. The only thing I needed to do was keep my hands on the steering wheel.

Now that self-driving cars are beginning to enter the marketplace, we’ll be able to take our hands completely off the wheel and focus on tasks that are more useful to us, such as reading, looking out the window, talking to our spouse or children, even catching up on sleep.

I’d love to see self-driving cars become mainstream, with the option of turning off the auto-pilot and driving them manually every now and then!

The day our MINI froze over

One winter day, as I finished work late in the evening, about eight o’clock, I went out to the parking lot and saw my MINI looking this:

I hadn’t expected that. It had rained earlier in the day, particularly during lunch and it had continued to drizzle through the afternoon. The evening had brought a freezing spell with it, and all that water had turned to ice, on the ground and in the sky.

What to do? I didn’t have an ice scraper with me, but I remembered someone had given me one of those mini-CDs and I’d put it in the car. After prying the door open, I grabbed it and started scraping off the ice from the windshield. Who knew that thing would do something useful someday? 🙂

It took about half an hour to get the windshield clean and another twenty minutes to warm up the car sufficiently so that it melted the rest of the ice from the windows. I loved every minute of it, in spite of the freezing cold. You know why? Because an unexpected adventure is a chance to experience something different, something extra-ordinary and it’s a welcome thing in my book.

What do you think I did after I got the car started? Did I take the highway and head home fast? No, I took the scenic route and enjoyed my MINI’s wonderful winter handling, with the aid of my winter tires, plodding through the freshly fallen snow and sliding over ice patches. I did a few donuts in the empty parking lot, slid the rear through corners, braked just so I could slide on the empty roads… I still smile when I think of that evening. Fun, fun, fun! 🙂

In the MINI

One stable element in our life through the past decade has been our 2003 MINI Cooper S. I placed the order for it in the closing months of 2002 and got it in March of 2003, exactly as I wanted it.

Although our life has undergone major changes in those years, and even though the MINI’s had more than its fair share of problems, we kept it. We even brought it over to Romania with us, and it sits in our courtyard right now, just waiting to be driven to some fun place, ready to eat up Transilvania’s twisty roads.

Our car’s seen a lot of ground during its almost 10-year existence. We plan to keep it around so it sees a lot more of this incredible blue world of ours. Even now, as we open its doors and get in, somehow the new car smell hasn’t gone away. The design (both exterior and interior) is still appealing to us. The engine still pulls like a fine horse and it still tears up the curves. And the fact that it’s been with us this long, through thick and thin, through incredible changes, has provided us with no small amount of comfort and it helped ease the transitions that took place in our lives. It’s a keeper.

I took these next few photos in the MINI, as we were driving around DC one winter day, a few years ago, with a 35mm film camera, an Exakta EXA Ia.