Posted in Life

Nine reasons I’m looking forward to autonomous cars

As I was driving around today, I thought of a number of reasons why I will enjoy autonomous cars on the road in the near future.

  • These cars will use signals for all right and left turns and lane changes. I know I’m not the only one dismayed by the rare use of the turn signal.
  • Self-driving cars will not roll through stop signs nor will they run red lights. I pause when the light turns green. Too many cars have sped across my path in defiance of a red light.
  • No autonomous cars will be riding my butt on the highway. They will maintain a safe and reasonable distance behind me. That will be refreshing.
  • That’s because they will be driving the speed limit. They will not be pushing the envelope to see how fast they can go.
  • Self-driving cars will not cut me off in town or on the highway. They will not weave in and out through traffic.
  • They will park amazingly well. Straight and between the lines. What, no dings on the door? And not on my front lawn.
  • They will go when the light turns green. Self-driving cars will not be distracted by phones or kids, but will pay attention to the traffic signals.
  • No autonomous car will be driving fifteen miles per hour below the highway speed limit either.
  • And they will all know where they are going. They won’t ignore wrong way signs and turn into incoming traffic. They won’t crawl through town looking for a street. GPS will guide them right where they need to go.

We’ll be in self-driving cars sooner than we think. Is that a good thing? We’ll soon find out.

Posted in Moments of grace

An early morning drive: alone or not?

Photo by Alejo Reinoso on Unsplash

I looked up ahead and saw…no one. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw…no one.

No cars. No trucks. Nothing. Just darkness.

I was out here on the highway…alone.

My flight was delayed. I landed at 1:30 in the morning. Caught my shuttle to long term parking. Got on the toll road, then the interstate. Forty miles to go. It’s nice at night. No trucks on my tail. No lights in my mirrors blinding me. No slow drivers to pass. No cars weaving through car-filled lanes. Just me.

It’s surreal. I’m not prepared for this. There’s always red tail lights to follow. There’s always the glare of oncoming headlights. There’s always someone merging onto the highway. There’s always Amazon trucks, car carriers, fuel trucks, and trailers laden with boats.

Not tonight. Tonight it’s just me.

This moment is peaceful. Almost hypnotic. A dream? No, I’m awake. I slept on the plane.

But what if. What if there are no other drivers? What if I’m not just alone on the road, but alone in the world? What if I get home, and there’s no one there?

A lot of weird things go through my head at 3 in the morning. Alone in a car, alone on a road, alone in…the world?

I can go as fast as I want. Or slow. I can stop right here if I want. I can turn around and drive in the other direction. I can swerve from lane to lane. No one to see, no one imposing limits, no one saying, “Stop!” no blue and red lights in my rear view mirror.

My speed is seventy-ish. I’m in the center lane. In an instant, I see lights behind me and lights ahead of me. My exit approaches.

I am not alone. Many others are out here driving. Driving like no one else is on the road. Eighty-five. Lane to lane. Disappearing from sight around the curve.

And I am alone once again.

I really hope someone is home, waiting for me.

Posted in faith, Life, prayer

Have a little faith

A few things went through my mind when I pulled up to this car.

First, it’s a Saturn. Saturn stopped making cars in 2010. So I’ll bet this car was about fifteen years old. I think it takes faith to keep taking it out on the road. Although, on the plus side, if the student is still a beginner, a few dents and dings won’t bother anyone.

Second, there is probably a student driver at the wheel. It definitely takes faith to ride alongside first-time drivers day after day. If you don’t have gray hair yet, you will very soon.

Finally, I flashed back to my own driver’s ed experience in high school. I turned sixteen in 1973 and took the class that fall. All I remember from the class was a slide show with gruesome pictures of cars wrapped around telephone poles and the mangled bodies inside of them. The main message: wear your seat belt.

But to complete the class and get a discount on insurance, you had to drive with an instructor in a car equipped with a brake on the passenger side. If things got hairy, the teacher could hit the brake and avoid whatever was in front of the car.

I didn’t get to be in the car until the following summer. By then, I had driven the family car and thought I knew what I was doing. I think I went out three times with an instructor. At the end of the last session, I was winding through some suburban Philadelphia neighborhoods when the teacher slammed on the brake from his side and brought the car to a stop.

I asked, “What did I do wrong?”

He replied, “Oh, nothing. My mom lives here and I just wanted to stop in and say hello.” Thanks for the heads up. By the time he came back out, my heart had stopped pounding and we drove back to the school.

A few weeks later, I asked my mom if I could take my license test. She wasn’t optimistic but took me to the state police station where you took your test on a closed course with a smokey bear hat-wearing state trooper. Intimidating? Absolutely. I thought I blew it when I had to back up our big Ford Falcon station wagon a second time to complete the three point turn. Much to my mom’s surprise, I passed and got my license that day.

Thirty years later taught my own children to drive. Yes, it takes a lot of faith. On the plus side, you also learn a lot about prayer!

Posted in Life

Three and counting

“So, are you down to one vehicle now?”


Okay, that caught me completely off guard. My wife and I had been talking about when we might downsize from two cars in the driveway to one. How often did we go two different places at the same time? Not as often as we did when we were both working. Wouldn’t it be sweet to only have to fuel up, insure, and maintain a single car?

He had retired a few years before and his wife was newly retired. Now they traveled together to visit family, run errands, and meet friends (like us) for lunch. They told inspiring stories of how they frugally learned to live simply yet richly in this new chapter of their life.

The fall colors were peaking on a warmish fall day as we walked around a lake. I should have remembered I was venturing onto dangerously thin ice when I assumed, “You must be down to one vehicle.”

“Three. And I think I’m going to buy a tractor.”

We’ve owned three cars in the past. We live in a town with no public transportation, so we had no choice but to drive everywhere. My wife and I would both head out in our cars for work, after saying, “Goodbye” to our children as one of them drove off to high school.

Three cars? One was a small pickup truck he had owned for nearly twenty years. That wasn’t going anywhere. Another smaller sedan was fine for running around town, but certainly wasn’t reliable enough for longer trips. So they needed a newer car as well.

A tractor? They lived on an acreage in western North Carolina. They had to maintain their own half-mile gravel driveway. They were also tearing down some old dog kennels, moving firewood closer to the house as winter approached, and dragging a gazebo to a different spot in the yard. Besides, he might have to dig a hole one day. Of course he needed a tractor.

My next-door neighbor and his wife have two Corvettes in their garage and two smaller cars parked in the driveway. Another neighbor has two vans and an SUV for the two of them. Two houses up from us, four SUVs are parked in the driveway.

I’m pretty sure my family only owned one car for years. My dad traveled to work in Philadelphia on the train, so we only needed one station wagon to haul everyone around. When my dad got a new job, he bought a second car for his commute. It was a yellow Ford Maverick with distinctive rusty trim. Once we three kids were grown and gone, they downsized to one Ford (my dad was a Ford fan) Tempo station wagon. They drove so few miles they changed the oil based on the calendar rather than the odometer.

One day we’ll decide one car or SUV or truck is enough. We’ll just have to decide what to own. Maybe we need something big enough to cart a lot of grandkids around in. Or maybe a sporty-two seater to zip around in. An electric vehicle? Something autonomous? We’ll see.

Posted in Life



As we were driving through the hills of South Carolina a few weeks ago on our way home from the mountains we passed a truck pulling a trailer full of pigs.  Pigs!  About 9 or 10 off them, laying on each other in a long, flat bed trailer, relaxing, enjoying the ride and the fall colors.  I’m not sure, but it could have been their last ride ever.  Anyway, it’s very unusual to look to your left and see pigs sharing the interstate highway with you.  It was one of those things that was so unexpected, it made me laugh out loud.