Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Are You Sure You Want A Self-Driving Car?

An image of a robotic self driving car.

Self-driving cars make me uneasy and according to a recent Wall Street Journal article I’m not alone.

From what I’ve read the majority of folks expressing doubts about self-driving vehicles are baby boomers like me. The first time we old-timers

Little boy riding a car in amusement park
The first self-driving cars.

experienced a “self-driving” car was at a county fair when we were about five years old and it went around in endless circles, and no matter how fast we spun the steering wheel the little car stayed on its eternal spherical track while mom and dad looked on approvingly.

I recently read that Ford is building a fleet of self-driving automobiles and that there are many already on the road. It’s the wave of the automotive future I’m told. With the advent of these self-driving cars will we see the end of a number of traditions and institutions and the dawn of new ones?

For example, who pays the car insurance? Shouldn’t the driver be responsible? I’m assuming that since I’m no longer driving the vehicle the bill will go directly to Ford or IBM or whoever is in charge of maneuvering my car.

What about high school driver’s education? Who gets the grade? The student or the car? If the car fails is it sent to the automotive vocational guys who threaten to put a penny in its heat riser and regrind its spindle pushers until grades improve? Are there still wood-working shop and auto mechanics courses in high school? And if not, why not? Why not free vocational schools for all, don’t we need more mechanics, electricians and plumbers and fewer art history majors? Oh, sorry, my manually operated train of thought wandered off track.

When your teenager turns 16 who goes to the highway patrol station to get tested for a driver’s license? The kid or the car?

If a self-driving car is pulled over and the police officer has reason to believe its passengers have been over served at the local pub, who gets arrested? Will the car accumulate a rap sheet that sends its resale value plummeting? Do Ford’s or IBM’s insurance premiums go up as the miscreant vehicle racks up a string of speeding, parking and other traffic violations? Will it have to wear an electronic tire bracelet? Can it lose its right to self-drive and be incarcerated in your garage forcing you to move your wife’s massive pottery kiln onto the driveway, thus causing neighborhood protests, a major HOA brouhaha, liens and foreclosure, divorce, alcoholism and financial and personal ruin? Is a self-driving, self-absorbed car worth all that?

What about malfunctions? In the classic1968 Stanley Kubrick film “2001, a Space Odyssey”, HAL, the petulant computer-driver of the space craft, goes mad and knocks off the spaceship’s passengers one-by-one until the last remaining astronaut, Dave, succeeds in pulling HAL’ s plug.

Could this happen in my self-driving vehicle? What if I want to go have a couple of beers and watch a football game with my pals, but my car decides to hang out with its clunker crowd at Jiffy Lube? Or what if I’m out with my wife and my car decides to pull into a local car lot to check out some of the latest models with their convertible tops down?

Scared woman behind the wheel brakes. The woman behind the wheel concept. Dangerous driving concept
“I’m going where?”

Since this entire self-driving car shebang is operated by computers won’t the cars be susceptible to hackers? What if my car is hacked and the invaders decide to treat it to a movie at the Joy Lan Drive-in Theater in Dade City instead of taking me to my desired Salty Pelican destination in Fernandina Beach? And what if they lock the doors and decide to binge listen to National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm or an endless stream of scatological, misogynistic rap, or kale recipes? Do I pay a ransom, have it towed, trade it in, go insane?

There is no end to the number of uncomfortable and unpleasant situations these portable prisons could put us in. What if it decides to take me to a Jane Fonda movie, a Metallica concert, a health food restaurant, my ex-wife’s house or a Jacksonville Jaguars football game? What recourse do I have?

Nobody is safe. If you’re a nervous, horny teenager watching the submarine races behind a clump of oleander bushes with your girl friend will the car help you use one hand to unhook a tricky bra clasp? Or will it sound a claxon, flash all its lights, and call the gal’s dad and your mom?

From everything I’ve read and heard so far, the only positive elements I can conclude about self-driving cars are that I will no longer have to attempt to maneuver into a parallel parking space and those that are inclined to do so, can text while the car drives.


Water & Marty Under The Bridge: Last week I met for lunch at Sandy Bottoms with good friend and former PR colleague Marty Filipowski who was in town for a day and told me about his most recent adventures as a Dell Computer public relations executive in Australia and much, much more.

Marty, who served as former Florida Republican Senator Connie Mack III’s  press aide, was a competitive swimmer in high school and college, and has managed just recently at 53 to accomplish a feat only equaled by 130 other people in the world, the Triple Crown of swimming.

He was awarded the Most Meritorious swim of the year by the Channel Swimming Association following his English Channel swim in 2013 and that inspired him to pursue the Triple Crown quest that he completed this August 15 when he became the 131st person in the world and the 11th from Australia to achieve the Triple Crown of open-water swimming. Triple Crown swimmers must cross both the English and Catalina Channels, and swim the full 28.5 miles around Manhattan in the 20-Bridge swim.  Last year Marty completed the Catalina Channel swim from Catalina Island to the LA-area coastline, and just before stopping for a visit here, he earned the Triple Crown when he swam around Manhattan in seven hours and 38 minutes. The always polite and modest Mr. Filipowski is quick to provide credit to others for his most recent New York effort telling me: “No solo marathon swim like these can be done alone. It requires good team work and support from people across my life as I work to achieve it.  I am very fortunate to have great coaches, crews that go with me on the day, doctors, physicians and dieticians. I also have a great partner and manager at work who understand what I need to do to be successful.” The New York Times published a story about the Manhattan swim, including two photos of Marty and a journalist’s view of what it takes to complete a marathon swim:  There are also two other links about his swim and the history of the Triple Crown: and

I’m very, very impressed and proud to say that this guy is a former colleague and friend of mine.


Downtown Bodega Bonanza: For a number of years now folks that live downtown, nearby, or visitors to the Fernandina B&B’s and hotels, have had to drive to the nearest grocery store — Winn Dixie or Publix — instead of walking or biking, in order to buy a bottle of wine, six pack of beer, eggs, bread,  etc., but that will all change tomorrow as Randy Bowman and Michael Smith open their new BuyGo store in its new 2,000 square-foot space at 626 South 8th Street at the corner of Gum. The old spot in the Pelican Palms shopping strip several blocks south of the new location was only 900 square-feet and the guys were quickly outgrowing those cramped quarters. To celebrate the opening the retail duo will host a wine tasting with some product samplings of artisan breads and cheeses next Friday, September 9, 5 – 7 p.m., while the grand re-opening will take place Saturday, September 17 with free food and giveaways throughout the day. The bodega-like store will also feature a sit-down coffee bar and a variety of new products including a selection of baked items ranging from pastries and bagels to fresh made sandwiches, cereal, frozen meals, craft beers, health and beauty items, cleaning supplies as well as fresh seasonal produce and lots more. The store will be open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The new site is the former location of Mermaid Walk and the web site is


American Journalism – RIP: An Associated Press story in the Jacksonville Times-Union Monday, August 29, reported that earlier this week Chicago police arrested two brothers, who were currently on parole, for the murder of a 32-year-old mother of four who was pushing one of her children in a stroller. According to Chicago Tribune statistics this young woman was the 465th Chicago homicide victim this year. The AP went on to report that Indiana Governor and Donald Trump running mate, Mike Pence, “sidestepped questions on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ show about the flow of guns into Illinois from his state of Indiana.” Mike Pence? Huh? What? Wait! Indiana? Did the AP or CNN interview Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and President Obama’s former chief of staff? Chicago’s police chief? Or President Obama, who has a home in Chicago and plans to build his presidential library there? Or what about the Illinois state parole board authorities who let the two killers out of prison prematurely? Did they make an effort to talk to Chicago resident and black activist Jesse Jackson or the head of Black Lives Matter since both the suspects and the victim are black? I guess Illinois’ Democratic Senator Dick Durbin wasn’t available nor were Chicago’s three Democratic Congressional representatives Mike Quigley, Danny Davis, or Tammy Duckworth. Or even Illinois’ Republican Governor Bruce Rauner or the city’s lone GOP congressman, Peter Roskin? If they did interview them I haven’t seen it reported anywhere. With biased reportage like this it is easy to understand why Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to spend a lot of money on advertising, since it appears the media is doing everything it can to promote her candidacy and disparage her opponent no matter how far-fetched. As a former newspaper reporter it saddens me to witness America’s major news gathering organizations spiraling further down a partisan rabbit hole.


YoungFrankenstein04RIP: A Very Talented & Funny Man: Gene Wilder, who died earlier this week of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at 83, was one of the funniest and most talented people to ever appear in films but stopped making movies in the 1990s because, he said, he was turned off by the foul language in modern movies. “I didn’t want to do the kind of junk I was seeing…so much swearing….can’t they just stop and talk instead of swearing?” said Mr. Wilder who was a master of comedic timing and observation. I miss looking forward to the aisle-rolling, knee-slappingly funny Mel Brooks-Wilder collaborations that produced such classics as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers and couldn’t agree more with Mr. Wilder’s observations about today’s foul-language movies. Are current films ones that you would feel comfortable taking your under 18 year-old kids or grandchildren to watch? Me either.


Speaking Of Celebrities: If this is this supposed to move me to vote for Hillary Clinton it is having the opposite of its intended purpose as the list of celebrities who have vowed to leave the USA if Trump wins includes: Lena Dunham, Samuel L. Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Cher, Jon Stewart, Spike Lee, Raven Symone, Natasha Lyonne, Omari Hardwick, Chloe Sevigny, Eddie Griffin, George Lopez, Al Sharpton, Woopie Goldberg, Neve Campbell, Rosie O’Donnell, Chelsea Handler, and Barbra Streisand. And what countries would be happy to host these miserable malcontents? Iran? Syria? Cuba? And how come Alec Baldwin is still here? Didn’t he promise to leave in 2000 if George W. Bush won?…/streisand-ill-leave-country-if-t…


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: The cozy, fun, upstairs sunset lounge at downtown’s 31 North 2nd Street Crab Trap will be a popular place on Thursday evenings as it initiates a Football Thursday program September 8 that includes (attention beer lovers!) $1.00 Bud Lights or Miller Lite draught beers; 50 cent wings; two-three dozen oysters for $16 bucks and half price appetizers and more, while folks watch college and NFL football games on the lounge’s big screen TVs. I’m not sure there is a place on the island anywhere that can top this? Call ’em at 904/261-4749. I hear that Tim Seyda, the hyperactive owner of the island’s south side Cucina South, Bar Zin and A Taste of Wine shop, all in the Palmetto Walk site off First Coast Highway, has plans to lease the now empty Beech Street Bar & Grill space from island entrepreneur Ernie Saltmarsh with no opening dates or food themes that I’ve heard about yet. Last week I reported that a Jacksonville-based restaurant called TacoLu would soon occupy the space next to Barbara Jeans, that in the past has been home to Spanky’s and Red Snapper, just north of the island side of Shave Bridge. I’ve been told that I was dead wrong about that and instead it will be something called Cantina Louie, a Mexican street food joint with current locations in St. Augustine and Atlantic Beach and even though it isn’t TacoLu, it will still offer up plates of red, green, brown and orange stuff that comprises the Mexican food pyramid.  In addition to its great Monday-Friday two-for-one beer happy hours from 5-8 p.m. another thing I really like about the new Local’s at the corner of South 14th and Sadler is that it is nonsmoking. Mary Maguire in her on-line NCFL Independent reports that City residents Ben Buchannan and Sarah Robertson met recently with the Fernandina Beach city’s Technical Review Committee about plans to create a “sprawling entertainment complex with food, beer and live music at the site of the recently vacated lumber yard downtown.” Ms. Maguire says they have proposed a family-friendly facility that would offer a variety of games, a community garden, kitchen, food service including food trucks. She reports that the facility — to be named ‘The Lumber Yard’ — would serve craft beer and offer amplified live musical events at the 117 S. 3rd Street site and she says Mr. Buchanan told the committee that the hours of operation would be Thursday to Monday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Even though it hasn’t been publically posted I’ve noticed that since tourist season has passed, local pubs are now reducing prices and offering locals special deals such as Sandy Bottoms with its happy hour seven days a week from 2-7 p.m. but I haven’t heard if it’ll restart the two-for-one Thursday pizza deal that has been one of its most popular. Weather permitting this evening at 6 downtown’s Sounds On Centre will feature the Beech Street Blues Band. I hear downtown’s Amelia Tavern will have its first in-house brewed beer available tomorrow, Amelia Tavern IPA. An Amelia Island restaurant was featured on  a Jacksonville TV station’s “news” for allegedly having a breakout of illness and it didn’t take long for the local social media cretins to jump on that and do as much damage to a local business as possible without knowing all the facts. These folks have no shame. If the restaurant was putting customers in danger it wouldn’t be open, but it is.  To mention its name would put me in the same category of the twits who piled on without waiting for all the information.


  • Comment (11)
  • I wonder how the neighbors of the amplified music will feel about that at 1 AM? Seems to be an unseemly mix right there, doesn’t it? JUst thinkin’

  • I wonder how quickly the fans of self driving autos would be to be flying aboard a self flying plane. Seems the technology to do so is available but I do not hear any clamor for them albeit some say they can land and take off on their own now. Like you Dave, I think I will pass on this endeavor.

  • Can’t imagine competing for highway space with driverless cars.Although,for years I have suspected that is already the case.Not driverless cars but cars driven by absentee drivers who text,read,shave, apply make up and eat breakfast as they commute.There should be a feature in all cars and trucks that no electronic products will operate while engine is running.

  • Dave,
    Loved your imaginary ride in the self-driving car! It inspired me to try my hand at a short story – a sort of Dickensonian Amelia Island fable. In it, you wake up in your self-driving car, but to your shock you realize that you have been transformed into a disadvantaged minority (take your pick) and that you no longer have a comfortable retirement with government-paid health insurance, and you work for Walmart. Instead of driving you to work (which of course means you will be fired), your self-driving “Car of Christmas Yet To Come” takes you on a tour of the island, where all of the wetlands have been filled in and turned into luxury condos or bars that serve chicken wings, but of course the bars are all closed because they can’t find employees now that Donald Trump has been President for a few years and the workforce has been decimated by mass deportations and the elimination of the minimum wage. The beach is littered with the rotting bodies of dolphins and whales killed by seismic testing, and the sun is setting over a horizon filled with oil rigs. You have a raging headache from the blaring radio which is tuned in to the only station remaining on the air – “All Limbaugh All The Time”. You roll down your window and try to call for help, but quickly roll it up again when you notice that everyone on the street is wearing a sidearm and they all look really angry. Then your self-driving car makes an illegal left turn in front of a white police officer who has been a regular reader of the Dave Scott Blog for years. You try to explain that it was the car that made the turn, not you, but the officer acts like he can’t hear you and he reaches for his weapon. In a panic, you cry out to the car in the voice of Ebeneezer Scrooge – “Oh, self-driving car, please tell me that I may yet change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” In a flash, you are transported back to the present day, where you find yourself at a dinner party in a health food restaurant with Johnny Miller, Ron Sapp and Joe Palmer. You immediately recant everything you have written for the last five years, and vow to dedicate your life to the election of Hillary Clinton, then you buy a big bowl of edamame for the table and hug everyone. Needs a little fine-tuning, perhaps, but what do you think?

  • I remember, back in the 50’s when I purchased my first car with “Cruise Control” It was at least 2 months, before I got the Courage up to try this new piece of Technology, I was on a straight stretch of road, with minimal traffic, It worked well, but giving up that control was difficult. Driverless Cars.? Not for me, or my Generations. Ps Dave, Good article, great Humor.

  • Dave —

    If your former colleague did well with the Triple Crown of Swimming, is it time for you to share with your readers what the Triple Crown of Barhopping might be? I can’t think of anyone more expert in this field than you!

  • Somewhere in the early 2020’s, real fully autonomous Self Driving Vehicles (“faSDVs”) will appear. They will profoundly change society and lives.

    When faSDVs become dominant:
    [] 80%+ of the 30,000 annual deaths related to autos won’t happen.
    [] Ditto for hundreds of thousands of injuries and tens of billions in property damage.
    [] The elderly who shouldn’t or can’t drive won’t be housebound or dangerously on the road self driving.
    [] Teen and young drivers won’t be a danger to themselves or me.
    [] Instead of owning a car, you will just buy a $3 ride to any point on the island at any time.

    And yes, the price of insurance will likely be included in the price of the car (but it won’t be very much anyway). And more time can be spent by students on math & science instead of drivers ed and driving tests. It’s likely that kids will be allowed alone in faSDVs as early as 12 or 13 (maybe earlier). And wonderfully, no more DUIs…a drunk doesn’t get a ticket as a taxi passenger and an faSDV passenger won’t either. And the faSDV will take itself to Jiffy Lube by itself while you sleep.

    The long drive to Atlanta happens when you sleep. The long commuter trip to JAX becomes a period to watch entertainment, do work, read or chat with buddies. Ditto getting to/from the sports stadium.

    Really, what’s not to like … faSDVs are going to make life better, much better.

  • Dave, we recently had relatives in town and decided to try the new Puerto Rican restaurant on 2nd, Lechonera El Coqui. It was great! Service was personal and efficient, and the bartender was even personally involved to be sure we were satisfied. And the food was exceptional! I hope people will give it a try even though it’s a little out of the way – they won’t be disappointed. We surely will return!


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