2018-5-18 – Observations on the way to Lincoln 

  • I took I-70 out of Lawrence and discovered that Kansas doesn’t recognize Easy Pass, although 15 other states do.  Speed limits going up – 75 here.  Now on US 75, which is only two lanes, but they are wide and the speed limit is 65.  No sharp curves.  It’s all good. 
  • Going through Topeka I passed by an enormous industrial building which apparently is the home of Hallmark Cards.  Heartfelt thoughts from the heartland. 
  • Much of the technology for self-driving cars already exists.  I’ve mentioned my Outback’s lane departure function – if you drift over a lane marking it beeps at you and a warning appears on the dash.  You can also set it to gently steer you back into your lane, which is a little unnerving the first time it happens spontaneously.  I experimented a bit on a clear stretch of road and this self-correction results in a sequential drifting back and forth, followed by a stern warning to “Keep Hands on Wheel While Driving!”  I wonder if this will disappear with full autonomy, when you can drive somewhere while knitting or playing solitaire or editing your blog.  
  • Passed through the Potawatomy and Kickapoo Indian Reservations and a couple of casinos.  Do I feel lucky?  Huh?  D o I?  
  • The northern Kansas landscape consists of farms covering gently rolling hills with patches of trees here and there.  Saw a cluster of 20 or 25 wind turbines in the distance.  I’ve read that these are fertile grounds for harvesting energy as well as crops.  
  • Another self-driving technology in play: traveling at the speed limit, my adaptive cruise control has locked itself to the vehicle in front, which seems like an appropriate target, so to speak.  
  • My passenger-side mirror said “Objects are closer than they appear,” which was not reassuring since the car behind me looks to be just inches away.  Fortunately, he couldn’t resist passing me, putting him behind the Target truck, but unable to pass.  Calmly touring with my cruise control set for a greater distance from the car in front of me, I took a perverse pleasure in watching him dart in and out, brake and accelerate for the next half hour, thinking about how frustrating that must have been for him.  Rough justice on the plains.

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