This Is Not a Review of Ford’s New Electric Mustang

Ford hasn’t rolled out its autonomous driving mode, but by combining the Mach-E’s adaptive cruise-control and automatic lane-keeping features, you can get pretty close. Combine these two features and you have a very different driving experience. If you use one-pedal drive for tooling around town, and some measure of autonomy for highway driving, then you can essentially always drive through a software intermediary. That’s nice, but it’s very different. The only thing I can compare it to is Mario Kart’s smart steering.

What is it like to plug in your car instead of getting gas? Fine. Totally fine—even as a city dweller who doesn’t have anywhere to plug in a car. Charging was never a serious issue while driving, every big parking lot had spots with chargers, and DC fast-charging worked as advertised, adding about 80 miles of range in 20 minutes. Essentially, I parked the car at a lunch place, plugged it in, and by the time I was seated, it had completed charging.

That said, if more people buy EVs, we’re clearly going to need a lot more chargers at public places.

What didn’t you like about the car? Because the Mach-E lacks traditional door handles, you can’t open the rear doors from the outside when the vehicle is without power. The vehicle is also very heavy, because batteries are heavy. It is a much denser car than many drivers might expect, which means it will coast for longer on no power than they expect. (Which is one reason one-pedal mode is so important.)

Final thing: The onscreen user interface is somewhat laggy. This lack of fleet-footedness is especially noticeable because it’s presented on a tablet that is otherwise essentially identical to an iPad. As cars electrify further, and come to be judged more on their software, these kinds of pauses and delays will become less acceptable.

My other problem comes down to bits and my general theory of culture, though.

What do you mean, “bits”? So glad you asked! Recently, people online have started talking about “bits,” by which they mean a “bit” in the way a comedian might “do a bit”—a gag, a joke, a moment of knowing artifice. When Robin Williams’s Genie in the original Aladdin does a three-second William F. Buckley impression, that is a bit. The question-and-answer format of this post is a bit (an awful one).

Every human craft and art, without exception, is built on a pile of accumulated bits, but some media entail more bits than others. A telephone call, for instance, doesn’t require many bits: There are some niceties about how you greet someone on the phone or hang up, but otherwise you just have a conversation. A podcast that records a phone conversation entails more bits: You wouldn’t play your theme music, for instance, at the beginning of a normal, two-person phone call, but it’s a normal part of a podcast. And at the high end of the spectrum, you have, say, the song “Telephone Hour” from the ’60s musical Bye Bye Birdie, which ostensibly documents a set of phone calls but is, like all Broadway musicals, completely mired in bits—starting with the ur-bit that when characters experience an intense emotion, they burst into song.

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