Automotive journalists, enthusiasts, and collectors alike universally agree on one thing: The analog car is dead and we miss them.
Want proof? The value of many analog cars has shot through the roof in just the past few years. For example, any modern Ferrari with a manual gearbox is now worth 50%+ more than the equivalent model with an automatic. 993 generation (1995–1998) Porsche 911s have doubled in price as enthusiasts claim that this generation is the last 911 to retain all of the analog traits of the original 911, most notably the air-cooled motor design that whose origin dates back to WWII. These are just 2 examples, but you will see this pattern everywhere: More analog = More $.
So what makes an analog car analog? Most enthusiasts would start with a normally-aspirated engine (unsophisticated 1980s/1990s turbo engines are OK), manual transmission, and hydraulic steering. What’s not analog: fancy gearboxes, drive-by-wire anything, any kind of electric propulsion, and certainly any kind of driver assist. Check some boxes on this second list and you might be driving a digital car.
So why are automotive enthusiasts afraid of all this? Are we luddites? Maybe a little. More specifically, though, I would argue that it’s some combination of (1) nostalgia and (2) fear.
Nostalgia of a simpler time when the raw, visceral sensations of racing down your favorite back road was synonymous with freedom. For that brief moment, you, the driver, are in total control. Nothing else matters.
Fear that driving will go the way of horse-back riding. Once a skill —and, for many, an art — to be mastered and enjoyed. Now relegated to an esoteric hobby.
I’ll admit it. I’ve clung to analog cars. In fact, I currently own a bright orange Lotus Elise which in some sense is the ultimate, modern-day f**k you to the digital car. While impressed with the latest car technologies, I personally haven’t want my garage to touch them with a 10-foot pole.
So why am I the editor of a new blog titled the Digital Car? Well, it’s because I’ve finally changed my mind. I’m ready to let go.
I realized that while gasoline flows through my veins, I am a technologist at heart. And, as a technologist, I fundamentally believe that technology is an agent of positive change. Change is often uncomfortable, but it’s not to be feared. Moreover, the reality is that technological progress is inevitable.
Furthermore, the race to the digital car is driving an amazing re-awakening of the auto industry. Cars are evolving at an awesome rate. More speed, safety, comfort, economy, driver control and passenger entertainment. With the only real compromise being the aforementioned loss of analog-driven sensory experience. It’s not perfect, but there is so much to be excited about.
The truth is that this shift will redefine every single aspect of the automobile and will ultimately redefine how transportation machines and systems fit into our life. It’s truly a fascinating period for the industry and I’m excited to dive in head first. I am also excited to share with you both the people and the technologies that are leading the path forward.
Long live the Digital Car. Welcome.
Editor Note: I have since changed the name of the publication from Digital Car to Future Drive. The new name is more expressive and more catchy. :)