My perfect machine:
Engine purrs like a sprawling cat having her chin rubbed.
Gears glide up and down like fingers slipping through flaxseed.
Chrome flashes, paint job gleams, windows sparkle,
And no dirt or grime finds purchase on her flawless skin.
My perfect machine is a dream.
My perfect machine is a fantasy.
My perfect machine is a lie.
My perfect machine is a diesel.
— Trucker Poet
No Perfect Machine
Volkswagen slew the myth of the clean diesel. The only way those vaunted German engineers could clean up a diesel engine was by cheating. They gamed the system, switched the code, pulled a fast one, hoodwinked everyone, and thought they could get away with it. Emissions looked awesome because they used the most efficient engine settings during that test. For performance, they used settings that made the exhaust dirtier than any other diesel. Miles per gallon was another lie. And for a while, they did get away with it, because no one tested everything all at the same time.
In the real world a few people did notice MPG numbers nowhere near close to the claims. Over time, an EPA test engineer became suspicious and blew the whole scam apart. To be fair, it wasn’t just Volkswagen. The first vehicles proven guilty of the scam were Volkswagen, and the guilt kept spreading. More tests found fraud among cars by Mercedes, Fiat-Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan and Renault. Every company paid a price for that betrayal, for proving there is no perfect machine.
Maybe you’ve heard about the self-driving eighteen-wheelers. Don’t hold your breath. Self-driving cars are decades away because they just aren’t safe or reliable enough. No one has a computer with enough power to replace a human driver. Remember Watson on Jeopardy? Sure it beat the champions, but it made a fool of itself on questions kids can answer. Watson is light-years more capable than any computer in a self-driving car. Watson also fills a room, a big room.
But the next most perfect machine is a motor. I expect to own a battery-powered, electric-motor, big rig some day soon. That dream truck will have more torque and power than anything on the road today. It’ll be quiet, have regenerative brakes, and recharge the batteries going downhill. The cab will be lower and more streamlined, with extra room in the back sleeping compartment.
The future is coming. Look for it on the racetrack first. NASCAR will add an electric class. That’s when racing will truly become a motor sport.