Significant Milestones – a boring Mercedes and the Road & Track Archive

I read in Car and Driver that there is now a car which is able to ignore you doing even the most willfully stupid things with the steering wheel, throttle and brake, and still it cannot be crashed. I daresay I could still find a way to put it in the ditch, but apparently the Mercedes Benz GL450 – a behemoth SUV, if you even care, enjoys what

Might be the most restrictive stability-control program this tester has encountered. Achieving max grip is as easy as flooring the throttle and turning the wheel. Electronics keep the wagon upright.”

Who knows if this is the first car to cross this line – the point here is, as I have commented elsewhere, the de-invention of driving is taking place before our eyes: the autonomous car is coming to us drip by drip, one self parking system and uncrashable SUV at a time. For me, this Merc seems a new level of divorce from the realities of motoring – a significant milestone has been passed.

Another recent milestone has been the inclusion of the Road & Track archive into the Stanford library system. This seems pretty significant to me – it is the inclusion of a popular magazine, read both for information but also for entertainment, into one of the world’s most respected academic institutions – and electrifying for car lovers, since this is recognition that Road & Track is not a rag, fit only to sit alongside Men’s Health or Sports Illustrated in the Dentist’s waiting room, but rather a journal which documents the automotive age. Parts of the archive were on show – test notes, unflitered for public consumption, photos which made the magazine and many which did not. There is a second gob-smacking element to Stanford’s involvement here; located in the very heart of Silicon Valley, there is global leadership here in the theory and practices around the preservation, scan and search technologies needed to make the very most of the resource.

As the art of driving – motoring, if you like – dies a slow, soporific, traffic-strangled death, a key journal of driving and automotive history passes from ephemera to archived documents, from kerbside trash to treasure at a stroke, December 10, 2012, thanks to Stanford’s Revs Program.