Sorry, Folks, Gearheads Don't Need Google Glass To Save Us

I know Gizmodo is one of our Gawker littermates and I love them, but I have to call them out like anyone else when they say something misleading about "car enthusiasts." Things like how Google Glass will "save car enthusiasts from extinction." Because we don't need saving, and even if we did, Google Glass is not our Superman.

The article is off-base from the very first paragraph, where it suggests a fake war:

"Computers are killing the automotive hobby!" Car geeks say this with defeatist disdain; tech nerds utter it with futurist superiority. Thing is, they're both wrong. Virtual reality and wearable tech could very well save hobbyist mechanics from becoming the 21st century's horseshoe installers.

First off, nobody is saying computers are killing the automotive hobby. Sure, there's plenty of old cranks out there who lament the passing of the carburetor while pounding their fist on a bad O2 sensor housing, but the idea that the average car lover has any beef with computers is crazy.

Computers are why we're getting better mileage than ever before with less emissions. Computers are how you can get 20 more HP just by flashing the software on your ECU, computers are how you can actually find parts for a 40 year old British car in California, computers are how you can virtually drive the Nurburgring in a Lancia Stratos while in your underwear, and computers are part of how cars will remain viable in the future.

There is no war between computers and gearheads. There's only love. Sweet, sweet love. In fact, with (hopefully common) open-source CAN busses and open protocols like Ford's OpenXC protocol, there's more possibility for car-tinkering than ever before. This whole cars v. computers thing is just a strange straw man.

As far as the Google Glass being a great tool for working on your car, I totally agree. In fact, we pointed out this very thing last year. But the idea that this is what's going to "save" car enthusiasts is ridiculous. There will be plenty of car enthusiasts who will either work on vintage cars that don't require this or don't work on their own cars at all (because they're under warranty, or lack of interest/skill/space/whatever) — and those people are still important in car culture.

I know the author is a car guy, and I actually agree with almost all of what he's saying — I just don't agree with the idea that gearheads need saving, or the argument he brings up about the criticisms of the car as a "dying concept of transportation." I don't think the author agrees with this either, but the idea comes up enough that it's worth addressing.

Sure, in many big, congested cities, it makes no sense to own a car. That's fine, there's plenty of options there. But a car — any car — still means freedom in a way no public transport system can touch. At a rural lakehouse at 4 am when you get a craving for donuts? Good luck waiting for that bus to take you into town. Have a partner about to give birth in a city with less than 500,000 people? Knock yourself out on that hypothetical subway express line to the delivery ward.

It's not that this article is actually wrong about the basic subject, that wearable tech and related technologies will be good for auto enthusiasts — it's the way it approaches it. Setting these technologies up as something that will "save" car culture and setting up straw man arguments of both opposition in the car community and about the fundamental value of cars themselves is just not productive.

Sorry to expose everyone to a bit of friendly sibling squabbling, but I really don't like how often car culture is portrayed as some embattled relic that needs radical face-computers to save us.

We're fine. We're not going anywhere. But if we do, it'll be in our cars, and just because we like to drive.