Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE NEW YORKER, April 30, 2019, published a fireworks of an article online in M.R. O’Conner’s “The Fight for the Right to Drive.”

I use the “fireworks” metaphor because of the article’s multitude of fascinating points, from SAE International’s five levels of vehicle autonomy and their implications on vehicle safety to philosophical aspects of human mobility rights. Here are tidbits gleaned from the article, especially those hitherto not addressed at SimanaitisSays.

Image by Lane Skelton/RADwood from The New Yorker, April 30, 2019.

The Radwood Movement. Radwood car gatherings celebrate those “rad” vehicles manufactured between 1980 and 2000. Y’know, the kind with steering wheels (unlike fully autonomous SAE Level Five cars).

O’Conner attended such a meeting, with people “gathered around a red 1991 Volvo GL. The car was well worn from thousands of school drop-offs and soccer practices; its cracked leather driver’s seat still showed the gentle indent of its owner’s behind. Its most advanced feature was cruise control.”

There were also a Ford Taurus, a Mitsubishi Lancer, and a Volkswagen Rabbit and Westfalia. Not necessarily “classic” cars, but vehicles with soul of another sort.

O’Conner says, “Radwood was first held in San Francisco, in 2017; this year, it’s being held in around a dozen cities, including Los Angeles and Sodegaura, Japan.” The cars’ commonality is dual: It’s ok to be mundane, but essential to “hail from an era when engine controls weren’t fully computerized, and when cars could be fixed using hand tools.”

What are ignition points, Grandpa? Though, in fact, Radwood cars are technically beyond these.

The Human Driving Association. The Human Driving Association is a resistance movement preparing for a future when driving a 1991 Volvo GL “might make you an outlaw,” as O’Conner observes.

The H.D.A.’s founder is Alex Roy, whose other moment of fame came in setting a record in the transcontinental Cannonball Run. As O’Conner notes, “The Run is still unofficial, unsanctioned, and hugely illegal; it requires contenders to employ radar jammers, escape police chases, and break speed limits.”

I recall that in 1984 Grand Prix driver and friend Innes Ireland codrove a rented Lincoln Town Car in the Cannonball One Lap of America.

Robert McGregor Innes Ireland, 1930–1993. Image, circa mid-1980s, by Dorothy Clendenin.

Innes did so primarily to see the look on the face of the Hertz agent accepting the car’s Unlimited-Mileage deal after only a few days’ use.

Dear Innes, rest his soul, would have appreciated the H.D.A. and Radwood too. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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