In a world where Teslas can crash themselves without any human help, a world where Apple and Google are both getting into the car market, Red Barchetta, Rush’s classic hit based on the short story A Nice Drive, is more relevant than ever. The song perfectly encapsulates what it means to drive, beginning with sedate yet intriguing guitar work from Alex Lifeson, beckoning the listener like the promise of a sun drenched morning, experienced from within the glistening steel and leather of an open top sports car. The song gains momentum like a warming car, settling in the spirit of a joyful solo drive on open roads after the first verse, eventually giving way to Lifeson’s agile solo, tension building like a spooling turbo before giving way to the climax of the song: the verse concerning the legendary chase with the “Gleaming Alloy Air Car”. The lyrics perfectly capture a unique experience for us gearheads. Driving alone on empty roads, only to be joined by another enthusiast out for the same kick as you. You don’t introduce yourself. You don’t talk. There are no pleasantries. You might not ever see their face, but you know who they are in a way very few other people understand. You’re both drivers, your passions aren’t worn on your sleeves, they’re shouted from your exhaust, screamed from tortured tires, spat from blowoff valves, and punctuated by flames. They live for such inexpicable joys as oversteer, forced induction, apexes, mechanical synergy, the rush of pushing your skills as far as they can go, come what may. To chase them is dance to the music of the fruits of industry and innovation for more than just the plebeian purpose of utilitarianism.
And this is an experience I will lose in my lifetime. Eventually I will lose the right to strap into my personal indulgence and leave all my negative feelings and problems in the dust, burying them as I bury the gas pedal. I don’t feel like any less of a man for having tears for this song. In fact I feel as though I’m a better human. I cry because nothing reminds you of why you fell in love like knowing someone will take it from you some day. I cry because I know what it means for someone to remove your passion. I cry because I know I cannot and should not fight it.
The autonomous car’s ascent is inexorable, and eventually will reach a summit where all other cars are made illegal for use on public roads. It’s not a draconian measure decided upon to infringe on our personal freedom or happiness, but a question of safety and, unarguably, the flow of traffic. When I die, I’ll be transported to the hospital in an autonomous ambulance that won’t have to stop all other traffic, because cars will be so in tune with one another that they’ll pass each other perpendicularly, leaving only inches to spare, at speeds beyond our highway limits.
More likely than not, I’ll be happy to go. If heaven is anything like religions make it out to be, I’ll bet it’s all powered by LS engines.