Expert Blog

Where my new car took me: through time

20160803_Where my new car took me: through time

I have travelled through time. For a road trip across the southern United States, I have sold my well-worn 2007 Chevy Aveo – which I wrote about in a previous post – and rented a brand new 2016 Ford Focus. It has whisked me forward to an amazing new era.

The differences couldn’t be starker. Not only are the seats actually comfortable, and the various troubling noises from the brakes, wheels and engine mercifully absent, but the technology has moved on immeasurably.

With cruise control, I can set the speed at the touch of a button, and accelerate the car in just the same way as I increase the volume on the stereo. It’s certainly nice to give my right foot a rest on the 400-mile drive from Boston to DC. It also frees up my mental faculties to try and guess what the guy alongside me is going to do next – and, inevitably, he’s going to do something totally unpredictable.

I can plug in my iPhone into one of the USB ports, providing a welcome change from cycling through the three (admittedly excellent) mix CDs we brought with us.

There’s also a reversing camera to help with parking – something all new vehicles in America will have to be equipped with soon. Sadly, though, my Focus didn’t come with Ford’s parking assist feature that’ll do the steering for me.

There’s even a real-time fuel-efficiency display telling me how many miles I’m getting to the gallon (40) and how far I can go before filling up. With my old cars, that was all a matter of guesswork.

Oh, and the A/C is a positive gale of cool air compared to the limp breeze my Chevy was capable of. We particularly appreciated that during the sweltering 100-Fahrenheit-plus days in Alabama and Tennessee.

I know this is all old hat to many drivers now, but as someone whose previous two cars were a 2004 Fiat Panda and that ’07 Aveo, I feel like the Victorian inventor in HG Wells’ The Time Machine discovering a world of Eloi and Morlocks.

This is motoring nowadays: a world of constant technological advancement. We’ve already seen things such as GPS become standard; now it’s things such as cruise control and automatic parking; and pretty soon everyday cars could start benefiting from the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley and, as I’ve written before, the latest Formula One vehicles. That’s before we consider the prospect of not even having to drive ourselves.

Marty McFly’s DeLorean took him back to 1955. The Time Machine took HG Wells’ time traveller to the distant future. My Ford Focus transported me to the present. And it’s pretty magical here.

- Jonathan Jones, a political researcher who writes about US politics for the New Statesman.

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