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By Sally Torbey

Will self-driving cars hurt Cozy Coupe sales?

Uploaded: Sep 21, 2016

Yesterday morning I maneuvered my too-adorable two-year-old cousin down the sidewalk in a vibrant orange and yellow Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, while she delightedly steered the vehicle and beeped the horn. We bought the coupe in 1993 for our eldest son, and it is hands down the most reliable car we’ve ever owned: energy efficient, requiring minimal maintenance, and still fun to drive after two decades! At one point we had a collection of three Coupes, all passed on to us by friends and neighbors, although my husband was convinced the Coupes were cloning themselves in our backyard.

Yesterday evening I also spent time in a slightly larger vehicle, my minivan, teaching my 15-year-old daughter to drive. Admittedly not as delightful an experience as pushing a Cozy Coupe, but one for which I am almost nostalgic, because driving a car will soon be a skill which will be about as useful as driving a team of horses. Mostly, though, I worried how self-driving cars will affect the sales of one of the best-selling cars in America for almost 40 years, the Cozy Coupe, of course!

My generation is the last to master typewriters and rotary dial phones. My teen’s generation will probably be the last to drive an automobile. My peers will be the last to know the parental rite of passage of watching a child back down the driveway and head out on the street for their first solo trip after earning a coveted driver’s license. My toddler cousin will likely never parlay her Little Tike driving skills into steering a full-size car, as self-driving cars will forever change how we transport ourselves from point A to point B.

I heard a recent radio interview where the reporter asked a self-driving car expert whether the public was really ready to give up the experience of driving a vehicle. The response was that the public already has. Stand on any busy street corner and one will see a significant number of passing drivers engaged in activities other than driving, while driving. Driving no longer engages us. Time is the precious commodity, so we preen, text, talk on the phone, drink lattes and eat dinner while driving.

For the most part I am thrilled that self-driving cars are our future. Convincing our elderly mother to stop driving after over 70 years at the wheel was excruciating. Relinquishing one’s license can mean losing independence and self-sufficiency, and becoming socially isolated. As much as I like to drive, my reflexes are slowing and night driving is becoming challenging. I am grateful that self-driving cars will us to stay active, mobile and engaged as we age.

In the meantime, I will instruct my teen in a life skill that will soon be extraneous, while wondering, will a Cozy Coupe still fascinate a toddler who might never witness a parent actually steering the wheel of a car? Is there intrinsic satisfaction in propelling oneself down the sidewalk in a Coupe that will long endure, or will the beloved Cozy Coupe become a casualty of the safety and convenience of self-driving cars?