MANKIND’S romance with technology is a charming outcome of the Industrial Age. In recent years — months, indeed — amongst the many exciting pieces of news for those so inclined have been the Mars Rover probes, the inception of ‘space tourism’, and the tracking by Nasa’s Lucy probe of ‘space fossils’ in Jupiter’s orbit. Here on Earth, meanwhile, on Saturday history was made in Indianapolis, US, when a racing car contest was held for machines driven not by humans, but by algorithms. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the winning driverless vehicle clocked in an average speed of 218km/h, setting the record pace over two laps and ushering autonomous vehicles into a new era. A team from the Technical University of Munich won the million-dollar prize at the first Indy Autonomous Challenge, an event dedicated to self-driving cars that rely on GPS, sensors, cameras and radar systems. The speed achieved by the winner “is not far from away from what human drivers do” with the same car, proclaimed proudly a member of the winning team.

Meanwhile, far away in geography but in passion of parallel demonstration, in Karachi the Classic Car Show 2021 organised by the Heritage Motoring Club of Pakistan was held on the lawns of Frere Hall on Sunday. On display were more than 75 marvel-machines of classic lineage, with models including Cadillac, Jaguar, Chevrolet, MG (the classic ‘Bond’ car), Mercedes, and Volkswagen treasures. Particular beauties amongst the gallery were a 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and a 1938 Rolls’ Wraith. All these ladies of eternal elegance represent decades of care and devotion lavished on them by their owners, all of whom must be lauded for their dedication to the preservation of those that came before. Karachi is of course not alone in its niche group of vehicle enthusiasts — the Volkswagen Club of Pakistan that holds vintage car rallies and Motorheads Pakistan come to mind immediately. The junkyards of the past inspire the glittering technology of tomorrow; how heartening that Pakistan should hold its own.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2021

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