Driving instructor Daniel Fehlmann from Bern talks about nerves of steel, self-driving cars being a job killer and the nonsense of new traffic laws.
Mr Fehlmann, you teach others how to drive. Is it a dream job?
For me, yes. I have been fascinated by vehicles ever since I was a child. Mobility has always been a piece of freedom for me. Nevertheless, my first job as a chauffeur became too lonely at some point. As a driving instructor, I can work with people as well as pursue my passion – the perfect combination, in other words.
My own experience wasn’t entirely positive, as my driving instructor was often loud-mouthed.
These are not the ideal conditions. A driving instructor has to be able to stay calm in difficult situations too. People also have different skills. Some learn quickly, while others need more time and patience.
Those who practise outside of lessons definitely improve more quickly. What do you think of the Mobility learner-driver service?
I recommend Mobility to my students time and time again. After all, some families don’t have their own car, or they don't have a vehicle of a suitable category. Mobility offers the ideal solution in this respect. I am also a fan of the carsharing philosophy, as a car of one’s own is expensive to buy and maintain.
Should learner drivers make the most of the opportunity to book different models with Mobility?
Being able to switch is an advantage. In the long term, it makes you more flexible, experienced and confident.
Since February, people who have passed their driving tests with automatic cars have also been allowed to drive manual ones. Do you think this poses any safety risks?
I find it dangerous without specific training, yes. I have, however, never known anyone to get in a manual car without driving lessons and set off. The handling compared to an automatic is too different, starting with the moment you get going. I therefore recommend everyone takes a couple of practice lessons with a driving instructor.
So it’s not the case that you’re against the change in law because you could lose money?
Most of my customers are still learning to drive in manuals, which I definitely recommend. This makes you more flexible and allows you to switch to automatics without any problems in the future. It’s true that, all things considered, fewer lessons are required to pass automatic tests. However, what takes just as much practice is correct and safe conduct on the road.
Cars are no longer a symbol of status for younger people. Do you agree?
That’s right. The days when 18-year-olds ran into you are over. It is no longer equally important for everyone to own their own car. My clientele mainly live and work in an urban environment with well-developed public transport. Young people often embark on longer training or educational courses. It is therefore worth weighing up whether having your own vehicle is affordable and makes sense in a city. If not, Mobility bridges the gap.
How do you teach environmentally aware driving?
In theory lessons, the main question we deal with is when does it make sense to use a car as a mode of transport and when is it preferable to use public transport? On the roads themselves, we practise changing gears at the earliest possible point, turning the engine off at traffic lights or barriers and, in particular, thinking and looking ahead when driving.
On the subject of looking ahead, do you think that your job will still be around for years to come?
What do you mean?
Because self-driving cars are not far off being launched.
I am excited to see how that all pans out. I think that traditional driving instructors will still be needed for another 10 to 20 years. But after that? Maybe our work will turn into consultancy linked to introducing vehicles like these. I am in any case very curious and positive about the future.