Cars of future put backseat drivers out of work

The first thing engraved on my brain as a new driver was to keep my hands at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel. I just saw a picture of a driverless car of the future. It doesn’t even have a steering wheel.

What do you do with your hands? I imagine mine will be waving wildly in the air as I scream.

The other thing we were taught as new drivers was to keep our eyes on the road in front of us.

The driver’s seat in one prototype driverless car can swivel to the back. To see the road in front of you, you’ll need eyes in the back of your head. (More flailing of arms, more screaming.)

Driverless cars are part of the future. I know that. I accept that. I don’t want to be the person filling boxes with 8-track tapes and cassettes when the new norm is storing music in the cloud. Although, in my defense, I hear that vinyl is making a comeback.

In any case, the truth is some of us go more reluctantly into the future than others. Some of us may need a push. Or a mild sedative. Or both.

I reassure myself with the fact that some of the technology utilized in driverless cars is already in place in many of today’s vehicles—things like anti-lock brake systems that detect vibrations when a vehicle begins to skid or slide and will pump the brakes for you.

Recently, after a nearly invisible layer of ice covered the roads overnight, the little yellow skid marks appeared on the dashboard as my vehicle began to slide. I managed to get to a full stop. Whew. Close one. And then the vehicle slid completely sideways.

I may need more reassurance.

Driverless cars have amazing robotic systems and software that can detect the presence and distance of other vehicles and pedestrians. A car being tested in the U.S. can detect the presence of pedestrians with 95 percent accuracy, which is excellent, unless you’re in the other 5 percent.

Another challenge facing driverless cars is creating sensors able to see through dust, fog, heavy rain and snow. Manufacturers are trying to develop sensors that mimic the eyes of certain animals able to make out shapes even in bad weather. No matter what we humans invent, at some level, we are always duplicating what nature has already mastered.

We were recently passengers in our friends’ new luxury sedan that has all sorts of computerized safety features. Our friend was driving as his wife explained that the car can tell him when and where to turn or to slow down if he is too close to an object or a pedestrian – and begin braking for him if he doesn’t brake. It also alerts him when he crosses into another lane and even keeps him from following the car in front of him too closely.

“Amazing,” I said.

“It’s nice all right,” she said with a grimace. “But now what am I supposed to do?”

Losing sleep over a new mattress

Half a dozen or so of us were standing around the bed like you’d stand around a shiny new car someone just drove home from a dealership.

We recently broke down and bought a new mattress and box springs. Our new mattress and box springs sit substantially higher than the old ones. Unfortunately, I have not had a corresponding growth spurt, so to get into bed I now must run, jump and lunge.

I suspected some of the family thought I was exaggerating about the situation, so I had them look at the bed themselves. One of the sons-in-law said, “Wow, that is high.” This coming from a fella who loves playing basketball because he can make rim shots.

“Tell me again how you get in,” one of the girls said.

“I start a slow jog at the door, build momentum, jump by the side of the bed, twist and land. I throw both arms in the air as I land for a sort of gymnast effect.”

Progress is often marked by making things larger – bigger big-screen televisions, higher high-rise buildings, larger large homes and ever-more luxurious luxury hotels. I wonder if someone thought adding height to beds was a mark of progress, too. If that’s the case, I bet that someone was 7 feet tall. Or more.

Someone suggested getting a step stool. I’d thought about that, too. But what about getting out of bed? What if you forget there’s a little step stool below your feet, trip over it, pitch forward and dislocate your shoulder? How is that part of a good night’s sleep?

I don’t mind doing a run, jump and lunge now, but what about 20 years from now? Will I still be running, jumping and lunging?

I called the salesperson about the dilemma. She chuckled, said it is a frequent concern and that all we need to do is lower our bed frame.

We have a four-poster bed nearly 100 years old. To lower it, we’d have to saw off the hand-turned wooden legs.

I also mentioned that the mattress is a lot harder than the mattress was at the store. Like cement block hard.

“Do you have children?” she asked.

“We have children and grandchildren,” I said.

“Have them walk on it.”“Excuse me?”

“The new hybrid beds with memory foam can be loosened up if you walk on them. Have the kids take off their shoes and socks and walk all over your bed.”

She was a nice lady and switched out the box springs for one not nearly as deep. I no longer do the run-lunge-jump to get into bed. She also said if we didn’t like the mattress, we had 60 days to exchange it.

The exchange will be easy.

The hard part will be telling the grandkids they are no longer welcome to walk on the bed. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new moniker of “Most Fun Grandma.”