Monday, June 15, 2015

The Real Skills Gap

There are two types of people in the world: Those who can back up a trailer, and those who cannot.  Thanks to several summers working for the Village of Howard Parks and Recreation Department hauling all types of equipment on trailers varying from single to triple axles, I am proudly in that first group.  So is my Father who spent a couple of years as an over-the-road trucker who had to drop off loads along the tight streets of cities in the eastern US.  Others are not able to back up trailers--like my wife and my Mother.

But along comes the Ford Motor Company to do away with this evolutionary advantage--as they have developed a computer-controlled, trailer backup assist system for the F-150 pickup.  Just pull up to the boat launch, point the back of the boat in the general direction of the landing, and use a dial on the dashboard to guide the trailer into the water.  The truck uses a series of cameras and sensors to control the steering by itself:

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Ford came up with this--I mean they already had cars that parallel park themselves (another source of endless amusement when watching someone who is incapable of doing it try on a busy street).  But it represents another move toward becoming the Society That Can't Do Anything Themselves.

It's just a matter of time before all of the car companies adopt the same Trailer Backup System--and videos of #boatlaunchfails becomes a quaint antiquity.  And if all automakers go to self-parking systems, it won't be long before that requirement is dropped from the driver's test for teenagers.  And then we will be just that more reliant on our machines and computers to do things that for generations were considered rights of passage.

Sort of like doing math in your head.  Even though it would take me less time to figure out that 713x28=19,964 than it would for you to call up the calculator function on your cellphone and punch in the numbers--that is the only way someone under the age of 35 would be able to get the answer.  It is also why we have Tip Calculator apps--and why restaurants print what a 15%, 18% or 20% tip would be on the bottom of your receipt--to spare you the embarrassment of trying to do it on your own.  It's why Kohls has to put up little signs under their 60% OFF banners telling shoppers what the price would be this weekend on an item that was originally $29.99.  They probably got tired of "Are you sure that's the sale price?  I thought it would be cheaper than that."  And just wait until speak-to-write becomes the norm on all computer operating systems--and we eventually lose the ability to type.

So, go ahead and add Trailer Backup Assist to the ever-growing list of "standard" features on the Cars of Tomorrow--along with Parallel Park Assist, GPS Systems so you never have to know how to read a map, and automatic transmissions so you never have to learn how to drive a stick.  You will just be adding to the real Skills Gap of the future.

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