Ignore Technology at Your Peril
The selectivity with which technology is accepted in Africa is worrying. When in place of manually transmitted gearboxes, automatic transmission (AT) came, most Africans cried foul citing bad-roads as ineffective in handling vehicles with such orientation. But as time has proved, it could have just been an attitudinal error.
|An AT Gear Lever|
Power windows, power steering, power mirrors, central locking systems, Antilock Brakes System (ABS), keyless car entry and others are not only meant to make our journeys enjoyable and driving a pleasure but also protect our vehicles from unnecessary damage.
The masses argued that not only could it be difficult for our ‘highways’ to hold the AT vehicles but our mechanics could not repair the new gearboxes once they developed problems, since they had been accustomed to the manual ones. In general, we joined the bandwagon that thought the idea was far fetched and it was headed for a slam.
Eight years down the line, 60 percent of vehicles being registered in Kenya are AT and recent trends indicate that the percentage is likely to rise. The AT vehicles have since gained acceptance and are becoming everyone’s darling; they are not only cheaper but also easy to maintain and have long-lasting capability. Unlike the manual transmission where the driver decides when to give the engine a lesser demanding gear shift, the automatic gear box is swift to shift gears as soon as the engine feels over-burdened making it run at full efficiency with less ‘stress’.
Though it comes with some drawbacks, like difficulty in battling muddy places, the AT vehicle is a technology worth buying. The manual gearbox is no haven either, wearing clutches and brink crankshafts were a commonality with the system. Alertness to engine sounds throughout journeys is mandatory for the driver to keep his/her car engine effective and safe.
While caution is a safe approach to new innovations, the benefits of such an innovation ought to be weighed against those of an existing one to ascertain either’s viability. In this case, appreciating new technology with caution should be backed by our curiosity to understand how it works. This will give us the confidence in features whose working is branded ‘suspect’ elsewhere.
As we pretend to hold onto our good old features, styles and methods of doing things, the speed at which the rest of the world is moving will forever appear unrealistic to us. It is reminiscent of the days when Ernest Michaux, the French father and son team of carriage-makers who invented the first bicycle during the 1860s. Their invention was termed a preserve of a few and that it was too dangerous to ride. A century and a half later, bicycles have become a mode of travel for all, young or old, female or male.
If the simplicity and comfort of driving AT vehicles is anything to go by, then Africa lags behind not because it lacks resources, but because we have not changed our attitudes.
By Antony Odeo
Mr. Odeo is an African Executive Staff Writer
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