Two at the Steering Wheel

Car with 2 steering wheels 1935.

Car with 2 steering wheels 1935.

A curious idea of an American driving school teacher in Cleveland / Ohio from 1935. A car with 2 steering wheels “to teach female drivers”. A steering wheel for the woman, but the first steering wheel firmly in male hands? A forerunner of autonomous driving? Without pain and without stress, as the newsreel announcer says. But what, dear master of the situation, if she wants to steer to the left and he wants to steer to the right? The question which steering wheel plays the master role is not clearly obvious. Was the woman allowed to drive her way at least on 8 March?

The art of driving

By the way, such driving school cars with two steering wheels actually existed for a while. Ford still supplied such constructions to driving schools in the 1940s. And scepticism about our human driving skills has accompanied automobile history from the very beginning: “There will never be more than one million cars in the world, simply because there are no chauffeurs,” believed Gottlieb Daimler, the inventor of the automobile. Today we are developing assistance systems at great expense and autonomous driving is right at the top of the wish list for the future. A great future thanks to computers is being raved about. The modern car with two steering wheels.

Our autonomy…

But doesn’t the ability to drive have a lot to do with self-determination and personal freedom and has driving not created a new, active attitude to life? For the woman of 1935, her driving licence was an act of emancipation. Mastering driving techniques, enriching one’s own life. This pride in the art of driving still exists. And perhaps man’s desire for self-determination will ultimately prevail over the billion-dollar business of “autonomous driving”. Whose autonomy are we really after? In fact, it must properly be termed “automatic driving”. Here, as in many other areas, we humans are obviously to be pushed by the computer into the role of merely passive consumers, spectators or passengers. Just as in 1935 the male teacher obviously showed little confidence in the woman as a pupil. Only at that time it was about driving school, in the future it will be about whether we are still allowed to drive at all.

… in danger

Caution! Human driving skills will no longer exist in the world of so-called “autonomous” driving. Freakishly we should only serve when the computer doesn’t know what to do anymore and drives us to the wall. Then man should take over the steering wheel again. Without driving experience, without skill. This will hardly work and serves above all to reduce the liability risk for programmers and manufacturers. Our autonomy is essentially determined by our will to steer our destiny. The state of self-determination. We are encouraged to give this up. Is it that what we really want?