If you’ve had the opportunity to drive an automobile in different parts of the country, or the world, you are well aware of the many variations of driving culture that exist. When I returned to my native California after 10 years of living and driving in Colorado, I was uncomfortable with how closely everyone follows you on the freeway. In Cali, I am told, it is considered rude to flash your brights or honk your horn – tailgating is the accepted alternative.
Contrast that with Colorado where the interstates have a posted speed limit of 75 mph, which the locals consider a suggestion. Driving 80 in the left lane is an invitation to having your rear-view mirror lit up with flashing high-beams. The only time I used my horn was when a moose blocked Highway 93 on my morning commute to Golden. He was annoyed, and I was late to work. In my experience, most U.S. drivers use the horn when they are too lazy to raise their middle finger, except of course in New York where drivers routinely do both.
When we visited Spain a few years ago, we discovered that Spaniards love their horns, and use them with reckless abandon. They are basically saying “Hey – look at me – I have a horn!” As a functional driving tool, the horn in Spain has been rendered worthless.
If technology has its way, my grandchildren will be denied all these rich cultural experiences. With the advent of self-driving cars, such old-school features as steering wheels, brake pedals and yes…even horns…will no longer be necessary. Cars are evolving toward the day when, like buses and airplanes, we get on, sit down, fire up a tablet and pass time until our destination is announced. With the exception of Spain, where I predict that culture will trump technology and even autonomous cars will have horns.